Junior League of Tallahassee… Through the Years
The Tallahassee Service League was founded in 1949 by Louise Kirk Edwards who served as the organization’s first president. Louise and several other young women met over a Coca-Cola at Bennett’s Drug Store to discuss the formation of the group.
Shirley Gwynn and Theresa Munroe Tunis walked over from their jobs in the society department at The Tallahassee Democrat to join Louise Edwards and Hazel Beazley. The foursome agreed to invite friends to form a club and in January of 1949, 39 young ladies from prominent families met for lunch at Joe’s Spaghetti House, formally adopting the charter for the Tallahassee Service League. From the beginning, the group was organized with the intention of affiliating with the Association of Junior Leagues of America. The Tallahassee Service League gained acceptance to the AJLA in 1960, officially becoming the Junior League of Tallahassee (JLT).
In its half-century in Tallahassee, JLT has contributed more than $2,500,000 to the community. That money has gone toward establishing the Tallahassee Museum, helping organize the Leon County public library, and financing the visiting nurse program that was essential during the polio epidemic in 1954. Concern for education and programs for the schools have always been an integral part of League involvement. In the wake of federal integration laws, the Leon County Schools Administration asked the Junior League to plan with them for effective change and a smooth transition in local schools. The outgrowth of this planning was the Leon School Volunteers.
Projects, fundraisers, and the organization itself have changed through the years to reflect the interests and needs of its members and community needs of the day. Here are some highlights from our first 50 years.
• Tallahassee Service League becomes the Junior League of Tallahassee when it gains acceptance into the Association of Junior Leagues of America as the 197th member
• JLT receives ‘Club of the Year’ Award from The Tallahassee Democrat
• Members host bus tours of Tallahassee for legislators’ wives
• Members create ‘History of Tallahassee Before 1860’ filmstrip and place in all local schools
• JLT endorses and promotes the establishment of bicycle trails for Leon County and fluoridation of city water
• The first Whale of a Sale is held, which became the League’s signature fundraiser until its final sale in 2018
• JLT joins the Library Coalition, taking an affirmative public stand on the need for a new public library facility for Leon Country
• Members develop a public service announcement for TV designed to promote pride in Tallahassee
• JLT joins the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce
• League volunteers conduct tours through the newly opened Leon County Civic Center
• Leon County, The City of Tallahassee, and JLT receive a grant to staff the Funding Resource Center in the Leon County Public Library
• Establish and outfit a Children’s Waiting Room at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital
• Increase financial support to expand counseling services at Refuge House
• Our first cookbook, “Thymes Remembered”, is released
• “Thymes Remembered” is featured in Veranda, Good Housekeeping, and McCall’s magazines
• JLT Headquarters relocates to its current location at 404 East Sixth Avenue
• JLT receives the Child Advocate of the Year award from Children’s Home Society and the Tallahassee Historic Preservation award for Outstanding Civic Group
• Kids Boutique, now a JLT signature project, is started
• Establish a prenatal bereavement room at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital
• JLT fundraisers feature nationally known guests such as renowned chef Charlie Trotter, former First Lady Barbara Bush and author Jill Connor Browne (The Sweet Potato Queen)
• Operation Prom Dress is launched to benefit students at Gretchen Everhart School and has since been expanded to include students from all local schools
• JLT funds and builds an educational playground at Tallahassee Museum
• “A Thyme to Celebrate”, the second installment in our cookbook series, is released
• JLT launches the Big Bold Idea Grant, awarding $21,300 to iGrow – Whatever You Like, Frenchtown-based youth empowerment and urban agriculture project, named and largely run by the youth themselves. The iGrow Youth are responsible for the community garden at Second Harvest Food Bank and for manufacturing iGrow Garden Buckets
• JLT implements two new community projects, Boys and Girls Club Family Nights and Second Harvest Backpack Program
• JLT hosts inaugural Sunshine State Ball, a new signature fundraiser, to celebrate all things Florida
- JLT established a Reopening Task Force which published new standards for conducting business during a pandemic.
- Little Black Dress (Fall 2020) raised more than $70,000, a League record
- JLT won a $2,500 Accelerator Grant from AJLI.
- JLT announced a new signature community partner, Capital City Youth Services (Spring 2020).
- Launched a monthly community newsletter, celebrating Members, donors, and community partners.
- JLT celebrated the 25th Annual Kids’ Boutique Back-to-School Shopping Experience