History of the Endowment Fund

The idea for an endowment fund for the league began to formalize in some league members during the 2000-2001 league year.  It was early spring of 2001 when meetings with an ad hoc committee actually began.  The ad hoc committee began drafting ideas for setting up an endowment.  They eventually developed the proposal for the JLM Community Endowment Fund that was presented to the entire league membership for approval.  The original ad hoc committee consisted of: Mary Linda Huggins-League Treasurer, Terri Arthur-League President, Martha Ryan-League President-Elect, Mossy Sartor-League Attorney, Dana Taliaferro-League Sustainer and Past President, Debbie Cummins-Assistant Treasurer, Kyle Wooldridge-Fund Development, Virginia Reeves, Myra Tosten, and Robin Fincher.  Later, Lynn Duncan, Jeanine Patton, and Anna Lisa Greer were added to the ad hoc committee.

The ad hoc committee selected the investment firm of Morgan Keegan to advise the league with the endowment investments.  They also took nominations for the first board of trustees to serve for limited terms.  The make-up of the board of trustees, as specified by the endowment by-laws, shall always be 3 non-league members, 3 league members (active or sustainer), and 3 league positions of President, President-Elect, and Treasurer (or Financial VP).  The assistant Treasurer (or Assist. Financial VP) shall serve as the secretary and ex-officio member.  While the league officer’s terms rotate each year with their position, the league and non-league members shall serve 3-year terms.  Thus, using these guidelines, the ad hoc committee presented the 30 nominations to the joint executive committees for the league years 2000-2001 and 2001-2002.  The joint executive committees votes were tabulated and the following people agreed to serve as the first board of trustees for the JLM Community Endowment Fund:

League Officers:

Martha Ryan, President
Lynn Duncan, President-Elect
Debbie Cummins, Treasurer & Trustee Chair

League Members:

Betty Jo Harris, Past President
Myra Tosten
Mary Linda Huggins

Non-League Members:

Charles Marsala-Marsala Beverage
Pat Moore-recent JLM grant recipient
Mike Neal-Monroe Chamber of Commerce

Dawn Sage, as the Assistant Treasurer, served as the secretary to the trustees.

The Treasurer of JLM, now titled Financial Vice President, serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees.  She establishes the meeting dates, and it responsible for the agenda.  The Assistant Financial Vice President of JLM serves as the Secretary, is responsible for the minutes, and is non-voting member of the board.

With a $250,000.00 beginning balance, the board of trustees has met quarterly (with the exception of 2004-2005 when no meetings were held) since their first meeting on June 18, 2002.  Along with reviewing by-laws and guidelines for the committee, the trustees have met with John Clausen, a Morgan Keegan representative, to oversee the distribution and investments of the endowment fund.  Grant applications are solicited using the guidelines established in the by-laws.  The trustees review the grant applications and recommend 2 or 3 to be presented to the JLM general membership for their vote.  The majority vote winner is then presented at the May homecoming meeting.  It was determined that a grant would not be given for at least the first two years in order for the funds to grow.  The ideal goal was to reach an invested amount that allows the Junior League of Monroe to grant $25,000.00 yearly into the community.

The 2005-2006 league year was the 75th Anniversary year for the Junior League of Monroe.  It was decided by the Trustees that this would be a good time to give a grant in honor of this special anniversary.  More than 20 applications were accepted from the community.  The trustees recommended three applications for general membership to consider.  Twin City Ballet, The Center for Children and Families, and Habitat for Humanity of Ouachita.  In May 2006, a grant of $15,000.00 was allocated to The Center for Children and Families.  This grant allowed The Center to furnish a comfortable room with the necessary equipment to monitor and video tape children telling their tragic story of abuse.  This prevents the children from having to retell that incident many times over.  The JLM membership is proud of the number of applicants, and the quality of the grant applications.  The Endowment Board of Trustees and the Junior League of Monroe is looking forward to that ideal- of giving $25,000.00 yearly to our community.

During the 2006-2007 league year, the Trustees decided to award a grant again this year but decided to not open the grant application process to the public.  A JLM committee is eligible for the grant according to the by-laws.  The 2006 Spring Market proceeds were lower than usual due to Hurricane Katrina and Rita (struck Louisiana in August and September 2005) and the move of Spring Market to the Monroe Civic Center arena that year.  The Education Task Force committee, which uses its budget to directly support our community through mini-grants awarded to area teachers, offering ACT workshops to area high school students and sponsors/assists the local Scholar’s Banquet, applied for the grant.  The trustees recommended Education Task Force to the JLM general membership for their vote.  In May of 2007, a grant of $15,000 was awarded to JLM’s Education Task Force committee.  This grant was awarded to a JLM committee due to the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the proceeds raised during the 2006 Spring Market.  The Trustees and JLM anticipate being able to award a grant annually and to an organization within our community.

During the 2007-2008 league year, the Trustees decided to award a grant again this year.  Fourteen applicants applied for the $10,000 grant this year.  The trustees recommended three organizations to general membership for their consideration: Life Choices Pregnancy Resource Center, The Children’s Museum and The Dixie Diehards.  In May of 2008, the $10,000 grant was awarded to The Dixie Diehards, a subsidiary of Dixie Youth Baseball of West Monroe.  The Dixie Diehards’ mission is to provide an inclusive baseball league that specifically targets individuals with disabilities.  They provide an opportunity for children with disabilities to pariticipate in  “The Great American Pastime” without regard to the type or severity of their health and/or development challenges.  This grant will allow The Dixie Diehards to replace their existing field surface at Biedenharn Sports Complex with Pour in Place surfacing.  This state-of-the art safety surface will promote safety for the players by cushioning falls and by providing a smooth, seamless, level surface for the players.  The JLM membership is proud to partner with and support other organizations within our community through these grant funds.

The Junior League of Monroe awarded the 2009 Community Endowment Fund Grant to Seeker Springs Ministry at the annual Spring Dinner held May 5, 2009.  The Endowment Trustees selected three finalists from twelve applicants who applied for this year’s $10,000 grant.  Each finalist presented their program or project to the general membership at our April general meeting.  Membership then voted on which finalist they would like to award the grant to this year.  Seeker Spring’s mission is to provide life changing experiences, which lead to life changing decisions that lead to lives changing direction.  They provide Christ centered experiences in natural camp and retreat setting for all who wish to retreat from everyday life.  They accomplish this through a variety of programs: after school camps, West Ouachita Youth Basketball, rope challenge courses, retreats & events, summer camps, mission camps, as well as Freedom Ranch Camp.  Freedom Ranch Camp is specifically where the grant funds will be utilized.  Freedom Ranch Camp is a program that was designed specifically for children who are facing difficult life circumstances.  This program targets siblings in the foster care system that are separated into different homes.   The camp allows the siblings to come together for the weekend and spend quality time focusing on their relationship with one another and with God.  The experience of riding and caring for horses is used to help the siblings understand how to improve relationships, over come fears, learn respect for others, and build self-confidence.  Over the course of a year camp serves up to 72 foster children.  JLM is known for its work for the wellbeing of children in our community.  Seeker Spring’s Freedom Ranch Camp provides an opportunity for foster children to participate in this experience at no expense.  The Junior League of Monroe is proud to partner with and support Seeker Springs Ministry in building a better community.

In 2010, the Junior League of Monroe was excited to issue another $10,000 Endowment Grant to one of our community partners.  The 2010 grant was awarded to The Extra Mile.  This organization helps to meet the needs of clients referred to them by their State Agency partners which includes the Office of Mental Health, Office for Citizens with Development Disabilities, and the Office of Addictive Disorders.  The Extra Mile “fills the gap” between the dwindling state and federal appropriations and the need in our communities to help those suffering with mental illness, substance abuse, or developmental disabilities.  The fund granted by JLM were used to purchase a used van to help transport clients to doctor visits, job skill training, and various other classes/training offered by the organization.  They were also able to purchase a year’s worth of insurance on the van, which tremendously helped their operating budget.  The Junior League of Monroe is very proud to be a partner with the Extra Mile and look forward to a lasting community relationship for years to come.

In 2011, the Junior League of Monroe was proud to award the grant to the “Friends of the Ouachita Parish Library, Inc.” The Endowment Board trustees had a difficult job selecting this year’s three finalists from the numerous applications submitted for the $10,000 grant.  The grant funds from the Junior League will be used for summer reading programs that reach children, teens, and adults.  Friends of the Ouachita Public Library serves as a secondary source of funding for these programs, which strive to increase reading in all age groups in our community.  The children’s department will use their portion of the funds to bring performers in for the children and to purchase incentive prizes as a means to encourage them to go above and beyond their goals.  The teen department plans to purchase a laptop computer to be given as their grand prize for the summer.  Finally, the adult department hoped to secure Drew Brees for a book signing and discussion about his book Coming Back Strong.  The Junior League of Monroe is looking forward to partnering with Friends of the Ouachita Parish Public Library for years to come. This organization’s work is directly aligned with the JLM’s goal: “Building Better Communities.”  We could not have asked for a more perfect fit!

In 2012,  in recognition of the role they play in making Monroe and Northeast Louisiana stronger and better, for the first time, the Junior League of Monroe was able to award two grants.  The first grant of $10,000 went to the Children’s Coalition.  The grant will support TeenScreen, which was pioneered in Monroe by the Junior League.  TeenScreen addresses issues of depression and suicide in teenagers.  They will use their grant to help identify children struggling with depression and connect them to the needed resources.  The second grant, for $5,000 went to Pilots for Patients.  Pilots for Patients provides free air transportation to those patients needing diagnosis and treatments at medical facilities not available to them locally.

The Junior League of Monroe is pleased to announce that in 2013, a $10,000 Community Endowment Fund Grant was awarded to Family Promise of Ouachita, Inc. Family Promise responds to the growing need of Homeless Families in our community to provide shelter, meals, and comprehensive support services to families without homes. The program unites the congregations from area churches to assist families in need of assistance. They are the only agency that keeps families together as a unit. They are also the only agency that works with local congregations to provide an end to homelessness one family at a time. Current services provided by Family Promise include congregational hosting, life skills and parenting classes, connection to community assistance, a day center, transportation, and transitional housing. In addition to the services currently offered, Family Promise has plans to implement a childcare assistance program to further ensure the success of the families they serve. Funds from the $10,000 Endowment Fund Grant will be used specifically for this program. The childcare assistance program will enable Family Promise to better assist its families in achieving long-term stability. The Junior League of Monroe is so proud to be partnering with Family Promise on this worthwhile endeavor that will directly impact homeless children and families in our community. A second grant was awarded in 2013 in the amount of $5000 to First West Counseling Center (FWCC). This is a professional mental health 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is “To provide affordable, professional Christian counseling in an atmosphere of hope, healing, and restoration.” The Junior League of Monroe is excited to be able to provide funding for a project that is aligned with the league’s goals to support the health and well-being of children and families, providing resources and direct services to under-resource students and families, volunteerism and leadership.

In 2014, once again, the Junior League of Monroe was able to award substantial grants to two deserving organizations. A $5,000 grant was awarded to the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum to help with expenses for a summer fun boot camp.   The Chennault Aviation and Military Museum seeks to “Preserve, Promote, and Honor Aviation and Military History” and offers several services free of charge. Funding from the JLM Community Endowment Grant will also be used to purchase items to expand the popular, and educational, “Please Touch Me” stations. These stations are areas where museum guests (children) can actively engage the exhibits, trying on military clothing, manipulating & exploring items, and absorbing concepts through activity.  A $10,000 grant was awarded to the West Monroe Civitan Club to be used in conjunction with Shane’s Inspiration, Inc. for an inclusive playground at Kiroli Park in West Monroe.  The Civitan Smiles Park will be an inclusive playground that fosters social inclusion and a bias-free world, uniting children of all abilities in play. Once unveiled, the organizations plan to host educational events at elementary schools along with “Play Dates”. The Mayor of West Monroe has agreed to assist to arrange transportation for these events to assure full inclusion and accessibility of all. The Junior League of Monroe is excited to partner with these organizations to partially fund the play structure. The Junior League of Monroe is happy to be a part of a project which is addressing social inclusion, promoting play and directly impacting all of the children and families in our community and beyond.

In 2015, the Junior League of Monroe was happy to announce that for the first time in 85 years of service we were able to provide $15,000 total in grants to THREE local organizations. Members were excited and surprised during the annual homecoming dinner when three winners were announced. The Children’s Coalition for Northeast Louisiana’s Ouachita Youth Summit, the YMCA of Northeast Louisiana, and The Greater Ouachita Lion’s Club all received grant awards this year. The Children’s Coalition for Northeast Louisiana, was founded in 1998. The group is dedicated to creating communities where children and families thrive. The Coalition works collaboratively with other organizations to problem solve gaps in service and needs for children ages 0–18 in four primary areas: early care and education, health care, parent education, and youth development. The Coalition sought JLM grant funding for the inception of their Ouachita Youth Summit: Make A Difference. Over 200 young people expect to be included in the summit which the Coalition hopes will inspire volunteerism and service learning. The group additionally plans to share knowledge on key issues such as health relationships, suicide prevention, substance abuse, as well as health and nutrition. The Greater Ouachita Lion’s Club was incorporated in 1948. The organization’s primary mission is to provide free vision screenings to pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children across Ouachita Parish. They aim to reduce the causes of preventable blindness in young children and secondarily to improve the intellectual, emotional and social well-being of all children. This year the organization was requesting grant funds to purchase a new state–of–the–art digital camera to be used in the Cub Sight program. The Junior League of Monroe is excited to be able to fund this request and provide grant funds to purchase the equipment needed. The YMCA of Northeast Louisiana began serving Northeast Louisiana in 1960. Since that time the group has focused on opportunities to improve the health and wellness of children and youth in our community. Funding will assist with the cost of the Summer Academy this year. The Junior League of Monroe is excited to be able to support three worthy causes. The League has been making a difference for 85 years, and these grants will effect change and make a difference for generations to come.

2016 finalists included three organizations with three very different, but equally worthy causes.  A $5,000 grant was awarded to the West Monroe Civitan Club to be used in conjunction with Shane’s Inspiration, Inc. for an inclusive playground at Kiroli Park in West Monroe.  The Civitan Smiles Park will be an inclusive playground that fosters social inclusion and a bias-free world, uniting children of all abilities in play. A $5,000 grant was awarded to Camp Quality USA, an organization that provides an opportunity for children with cancer to attend a camp specially designed for them to spend a week free of hospitals and doctor appointments.  A third $5,000 grant was awarded to Two Penny Missions, Inc., a group that meets many different types of needs throughout Ouachita Parish.  With grant funds they will provide essential items for a shelter complex for homeless families, battered women and others in need.  The members of the Junior League of Monroe are proud to support these admirable and valuable projects and organizations.  While the league itself strives to be a helpful and positive force in the community, it’s enjoyable and essential to empower other groups to do the same.

The Junior League of Monroe has supported other non-profit organizations in our community, through the funding of the Community Endowment grants each year. The applicants have become more phenomenal each year with their projects that reach underserved areas of our community and we are proud to support these projects. In 2017 the Endowment Board of Trustees and the Active membership of the Junior League have chosen to award two grants for a total of $15,000. Each of the recipients serves a need within our community that we are glad to support. First, receiving a $10,000 grant is the Children’s Coalition of Northeast Louisiana. This organization will use the funds for their Jus4Me program designed to educate pregnant and parenting teens in Ouachita Parish. More specifically, this grant will provide essential funding for on-site teen parenting sessions at two Monroe City Schools – Carroll High School and Wossman High School.  The second recipient is the Little Theatre of Monroe with a $5,000 award. Junior League funds will be used for the Strauss Theatre Royalty Sponsorship Program – to help defray Royalty License expenses for their five theatrical events so monies are available to repair/replace the building roof and crumbling upper floor.

It is the most important mission of the Junior League to improve the community around it.  The Junior League of Monroe takes that missions seriously, and therefore awards endowment grants  every year to organizations in Ouachita Parish that seek support in charitable projects throughout the area. We say thank you to all the groups who applied for grants and to our finalists for their willingness to give back to Ouachita Parish and its citizens.