The decade of the sixties was a time of dramatic change in America. The race for space was intense. Tension brewed between opposing nations. The Vietnam War had divided the country and race relations reached a volatile crossroads.
The concerns of the nation were also concerns in Wichita Falls, Texas. But as the decade of the 1960s drew to a close, a new emphasis was being placed on local issues by a group who recognized the need for action.
In 1969, the Junior Service League of Wichita Falls took a bold step, which would forever change the organization. This step, which had taken years of preparation, set a new standard for the members and a new course for the future. The Junior Service League was accepted for membership in the Association of Junior Leagues of America (AJLA).
The move toward membership actually started in the fall of 1965, under the leadership of Carolyn Sanders. The application process was tedious. There were mountains of paperwork to complete and very precise planning required to prepare for the first inspection visit from AJLA.
Once the inspection team arrived, the days were filled with meetings, luncheons and dinners. The AJLA representatives wanted to know all about the group's projects, present and future. They were also interested in monies that had been raised and the Service League's plans for serving the community.
The inspection and approval process was truly that-a process. It continued through the terms of five presidents in all: Carolyn Sanders, Beverly Bolin, Caro Walker, Nancy Sherrill and Ann McBride. According to Bolin and Sherrill, much of the groundwork had already been done through the diligent efforts of the early Junior Service League. The review committee was impressed with the work the organization had done to secure and pay for the land for the Wichita Falls Museum and Arts Center. Additionally, Bolin and Sherrill say the reviewers took great interest in the Service League's involvement with the Wichita Falls ISD's hearing program, the good will efforts with the German Squadron at Sheppard Air Force Base, the Bargain Box resale shop and even the follies.
But not only was the Service League being sized up by AJLA representatives, AJLA was being sized up by the Service League. Early members like Nancy Sherrill say one of the many reasons the organization sought AJLA acceptance was for the information and training opportunities offered by the national organization. Members also felt affiliation would provide a framework for provisional and placement development, transfer privileges for members moving to other cities and the added prestige of being inked to a nationally recognized organization. But most importantly, the Junior Service League was looking for better, more effective ways to impact the community. AJLA affiliation would provide access to valuable research information regarding potential projects and volunteer opportunities, which could be adapted to the benefit of Wichita Falls.
When the review process was completed there was no question with reviewers that the Junior Service League had the commitment to voluntarism necessary for membership to AJLA. On September 25, 1969, the Junior Service League of Wichita Falls was officially admitted to the Association of Junior Leagues of America, becoming 18th League in Region VIII.
Today, 40 years, thousands of volunteer hours, and millions of dollars later, the Junior League of Wichita Falls continues to fulfill the vision of the Junior Service League members. Several of those early leaders still serve on League committees and provide valuable insight and experience as the organization moves forward. Thanks to all the members who have been integral part of our rich history, especially those visionary founders who saw the potential of this wonderful organization. Happy Anniversary!!
To view a short video celebrating 50 years of service, click the link below: