Oklahoma City was quickly growing in the 1920s, and with that growth came several concerns about children’s health care and the need for dedicated community involvement. Determined to address these issues, a group of women formed the Junior Service League of Oklahoma City in March 1927, which a year later became affiliated with the Association of Junior Leagues of America.
It was the start of a long, storied and continuing history of service, voluntarism and dedication to community projects and improvements with a focus on health and wellness.
Now known as the Junior League of Oklahoma City, the organization’s first extensive project in the ’20s was to establish a community center in the Walnut Grove area, south of the Canadian River. The League hired a play supervisor and set up a library, and two members were on site every afternoon.
Its efforts were quickly appreciated. Funding became easier for future projects, including transportation for children from the County Tuber- cular Sanitarium, Sunbeam Home and Walnut Grove to facilities for treatment and examinations.
During the League’s first year, fundraisers included a fashion show, tea party, Christmas card sales and a rummage sale that evolved into The Remarkable Shop, a community thrift store. After bills and obligations were paid, the surplus was $1,810.91.
The Junior League soon established an occupational therapy department and later a recreational therapy department in the then-named Crippled Children’s Hospital. In 1932, during the Great Depression, the Junior League established Variety Health Center with medical services first provided in Walnut Grove. In the mid-to late ’40s, the organization sponsored a war bond party and the Beaux Arts Ball.
Over the past 80 years, the Junior League’s effort and determination increased. It has sponsored or co-sponsored numerous seminars and clinics on drug education, the environment, playground design, child abuse and health-related issues. A multitude of projects have been completed, including the Jungle Gym at the Oklahoma City Zoo and The Zone at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital for patients and families.
Mistletoe Market has been a popular Junior League holiday shopping event for decades. Since 1994, more than $1.5 million has been raised to invest in Oklahoma City community projects. Last year’s event raised over $130,000; this year’s is planned for Nov. 3-5 at the OKC Convention Center.
The Remarkable Shop, the League’s resale and consignment store, closed in November 2012, but it generated more than $4 million in 82 years, and the money was invested back into the community. In 2013, an 85th anniversary gala raised $85,000 to fund gifts to both YWCA Oklahoma City and the Myriad Botanical Gardens.
As membership has grown, so have the number of projects the ambitious and dedicated group tackled. Junior League of Oklahoma City now has 1,200 members who engage in community service projects focused on the health and wellness of the metro, and make meaningful connections through leadership, development, training and social opportunities, said Junior League president Adrienne Nobles.
In the 2022-23 year, members reported about 13,700 volunteer hours in service for a total of $435,687 to the Oklahoma City community. Added up over 96 years, Nobles has no doubt the League has contributed millions of dollars in value to the 405.
The Junior League currently runs projects with the YWCA, Boys & Girls Club, Girl Scouts, Citizens Caring for Children, ReMerge, City Care, Concordia, Pivot, Positive Tomorrows, Oklahoma Children’s Hospital and the OKC Zoo. Its signature project, Project EmpowHer, addresses period poverty in the metro with delivery of more than 140,000 products so far.
The League’s mission hasn’t changed since inception — and neither has its members’ determination to help more each year.