JLFW has a 76+ year history of serving the community through the development and execution of projects. All our two- to five-year projects have focused on women and children in some way, but in retrospect, our work has not been focused. For example, we have addressed childhood obesity, literacy, women’s self-sufficiency, child abuse, the arts, and more than 20 other focus areas through JLFW’s 80+ projects.
In 2011-2012, JLFW was selected to be part of a learning team that researched and analyzed best practices for Issue-Based Community Impact. At the end of the process, it was concluded that:
- Junior Leagues must shift from being project-focused to issue-based in order to have a deeper community impact and to make a sustainable difference in the community.
- Issue-based community impact is bigger, deeper, longer-term and more enduring than a project-based focus.
- JLFW will move from being project-based to issue-based.
- JLFW will target a focus area within our issue until the area is resolved through hands-on volunteer work, advocacy and financial support.
For two years a team of members conducted intensive research within the Fort Wayne community to discover the biggest areas of need in the community in order to determine the new “issue” the League would focus on long-term. Three potential areas were identified, and the JLFW General Membership voted in February 2014 that the chapter’s new Focus Area would be “Readiness for Elementary School.” This is when our First Things First program came to life and is currently growing into an amazing opportunity for our JLFW members to connect with the community, grow a relationship with those in need and prepare young children for elementary school.