Opinion

80 Years in the Making: The 2018 Annual Community Leaders Breakfast

In the age of social media and a focus on digital connections, it can be challenging to gather more than 50 influential leaders in-person at 7 a.m. on a Friday morning. This is, however, just what the Junior League of Durham and Orange Counties (JLDOC) did on March 9 with its annual Community Leaders Breakfast.

This year’s breakfast was special – we celebrated our 80th anniversary. In 1938, a local women’s service organization was admitted in to the Association of Junior Leagues of America, Inc. and we have been developing women leaders, serving our community and promoting volunteerism ever since. As part of our mission, we have worked collaboratively with nonprofits, schools and the community to determine gaps in services and partner in creating innovative programs to keep improving Durham and Orange counties. Moved by this exciting milestone, we took the opportunity at this year’s breakfast to shine a light on some of these impactful programs and partners.

One of those programs is Durham Public Schools’ ENCORE. Compelled by an increase in after-school crime in Durham, JLDOC members developed an after-school curriculum for Durham Public Schools’ middle schoolers and raised the money to support it. The ENCORE program was adopted by the Durham Public Schools system and more than 20 years later continues to provide after-school options for Durham’s public-school children. JLDOC members are still involved volunteering once a week with female ENCORE participates teaching them about healthy habits, like practicing yoga and cooking classes.

As the years have passed new challenges have arisen and we continue to respond. Another featured organization at the breakfast was our current impact partner Farmer Foodshare. With a mission to connect people who grow food with people who need food, Farmer Foodshare is improving our community through the power of healthy food. During the past two years, our members have been able to support its mission by volunteering at food donation stations at local farmers’ markets, teaching cooking classes and providing trained volunteers for Farmer Foodshare’s fundraising events.

“I enjoy hearing about important community issues and how the JLDOC is impacting them, as well as having the chance to connect with fellow community leaders,” says Kate Rugani, director of development and communications, Farmer Foodshare, who attended the Community Leaders Breakfast. “The women of the JLDOC have strengthened our local community in many ways over the last 80 years, and Farmer Foodshare is proud to partner with them.”

The speakers were not the only change to this year’s event. We provided a lengthy opportunity for networking between agencies, organizations and individuals offering every attendee a chance to connect with a new person or organization. We are thrilled the annual Community Leaders Breakfast continues to provide a forum to connect community leaders and organizations and to continue the 80-year legacy of the JLDOC.

“For the many years I have been involved in the Community Leaders Breakfast, this year’s event was marked with joyfulness,” says Kathleen Harrell, vice president, community, JLDOC. “There was a resounding joy from the community and our members as we shared stories and experiences from our personal history with JLDOC.”

We look forward to 80 more years of hosting the Community Leaders Breakfast and supporting the communities of Durham and Orange Counties.

Do you have an experience with the JLDOC you would like to share? Are a community leader or organization interested in being more involved with the JLDOC? Please visit us at www.jldoc.org.

Submitted by Jane Yarbrough for the The Junior League of Durham & Orange Counties

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