The Junior League of Asheville, Inc., organized in 1925 as the Junior League Club, joined the Association of Junior Leagues of America in February 1927. To establish eligibility for membership in the national association, the fourteen members of the founding group dedicated themselves to community service. The first president was Miss Anna Catherine Bryant (Mrs. James Rickert).
Just as it is today, volunteer service was the hallmark of membership. Through their individual efforts, club members distributed Christmas baskets, did motor corps work, helped a needy family, rolled bandages, placed a tubercular patient in a sanatorium, and assisted at the Orthopedic Clinic by providing transportation and maintaining medical histories and records.
The first major project undertaken was the establishment of a baby home for infant wards of the court. The League agreed in 1931 to equip and maintain the new baby home, built on the county’s Children’s Home property, for five years. Members also helped care for children less than four years of age at the home. By November 1936, the Junior League had cared for over 160 children and contributed $27,000. Three years later, the Junior League, with the Asheville Rotary Club, established the Orthopedic Home. Members assisted in furnishing and supporting it as well as supplying volunteer workers.
During the years of World War II, no new project was begun, but members contributed many hours to both community and defense work. In 1946, the League and the American Business Club took over the support and operation of a nursery school which the government had established to care for the children of mothers doing war work. The Asheville Day Nursery became an agency of the United Fund at the end of five years.
Since its inception, several money raising activities have made the League’s financial support of community projects possible. A gift shop, tea room, Follies, a cookbook, the Southern Conference tournament, the Holiday Market, Diamond on the Diamond, The Diamond Ball and Spring Market have all been fundraisers.
From 1949 to 2009, the Next to New shop had been the League’s largest money making project, with income going to support community projects.
The major community focus areas of the Junior League of Asheville have been the Arts, Education, Family Services, and Community Resources. The Children’s Theater Committee produced the first of many plays in 1929. Since that time the League has sponsored radio programs, puppet shows, and a regional television workshop which became a successful TV series produced locally. Beginning in 1950, the Community Arts Committee secured and circulated thirty-six paintings in the city and county schools. A calendar of cultural events, initiated by this committee, was published by the Civic Arts Council and sent to 4,000 people each month. A Creative Dramatics program in the elementary schools enabled children to build their self-confidence while learning more effective ways of communicating with others.
The Junior League of Asheville continues to improve our community by focusing on women, children and education. The League boasts members who serve in various ways throughout the region on boards of directors, on development teams, as community organizers and civic leaders. Throughout almost 90 years in Asheville, North Carolina our mission stands firm as we are committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving our community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.