Instead of focusing on the challenges created by COVID-19, the Junior League of Tallahassee (JLT) continues to look for – and embrace – opportunities that further its mission and members.
Although we physically closed headquarters to our members and the public in March, we quickly pivoted to embrace technology, identify ways to safely serve the community and reduce expenses. Incidentally, these changes came just as we launched our inaugural Mighty Meals event- a large-scale food distribution providing food for families during Spring Break.
Mighty Meals highlighted the value of trained volunteers, a critical component of JLT’s mission. Not only did we distribute more than 15,800 meals, we did so while practicing social distancing, wearing personal protective equipment and creatively engaging the community to ensure families that needed food received it. Some might say the way we served the community is a result of our new normal.
Personally, I do not prescribe or embrace the thought of a new normal. The term normal, when applied to JLT’s work, indicates we are conforming to a type and allowing events to happen naturally. Normal means we are no different than any other organization. However, that could not be further from the truth.
JLT is different.
We are an organization of women dedicated to improving the lives of children and families, and our work is too important to hit pause. Thus, we are creating a new standard of volunteering, gathering, training and fundraising. This is an opportunity for JLT to raise the bar.
To that end, I convened a workgroup of JLT leaders to identify best practices and recommend how JLT should re-open our physical space, volunteer shifts and calendar of events. With our members, partners and donors at the center of everything we do, we hope this plan will instill confidence for those we work with, and serve. And ultimately we envision this plan becoming a model for local non-profits and the 25 Junior Leagues in Florida.
With the support of our community partners and Members, JLT has published the initial report on our website and established a year-long task force to offer feedback on evolving local and state guidelines. We know that business as usual is a term of the past, and that has created room for new standards. Some of our new standards include an increased number of virtual or independent volunteer opportunities, a continued focus on risk management, and renewed focus on service delivery.
The mission of JLT is more important than ever as communities experience disproportionate impacts caused by the global pandemic. Our vision is that the new standards will bolster our work as community leaders, enhance the skills of our trained volunteers, and elevate our partnerships with local nonprofits working to ensure our neighbors’ basic needs are met.
Together, we will overcome the cascading effects of COVID-19 and implement new standards for serving our community. JLT’s foundation, layers of rich history and tradition of service to the Big Bend is strong and will focus on embracing change.