JLF History

Celebrating Over 55 Years of Community Service

In 1948, thirty community-spirited women under the leadership of Mrs. Marjoree Harkness, Mrs. Edwin Andress and Mrs. Wendall Asbury organized to label cans for the Cancer Drive as an initial project. Their first fundraising project as the Service League of Fresno, Inc. benefited children left orphaned and destitute by war. In 1959, after eleven years of proven community service, the Association of Junior Leagues admitted the Junior League of Fresno, Inc. as the 191st League to join the expanding international organization.

The 1950s saw an emphasis on health and hospital-related projects. Junior League of Fresno established a Dental Health Council that continued for nineteen years. While area hospitals benefited from donations of equipment, Valley Children’s Hospital was the major focus with such items as an electrocardiac machine, cardiac pacemaker, oximeter, and many monetary donations to its building fund. The Fresno League also participated in the formation of the Fresno Junior Museum (later to become the Discovery Center) in 1955.

During the 1960s, the Junior League of Fresno branched out into other areas of the community. A groundbreaking was held for the Fresno Arts Center (later to become the Fresno Art Museum) in 1959, which would remain a project until 1969. One of the Fresno League’s major achievements was the co-sponsorship of the formation of the Volunteer Bureau in 1961 and the Volunteens program that followed in 1963, both long-term commitments of ten years each. In 1967, the Junior League of Fresno participated in the proposal that won Fresno its first All-American City Award.

The 1970s found the Junior League of Fresno involved in yet another long-term project, International Visitors, which showed off the San Joaquin Valley for the next eleven years. The Volunteer of the Year Awards Luncheon (still going strong today) was born in 1971 thanks to the Junior League of Fresno. A Pediatric Playroom was added at Valley Children’s Hospital. An Annual College Arts Competition, a Drug Prevention Education Program, and a Shelter Home for dependent abused and neglected children were also undertaken. In 1974, the first annual Next-to-New Rummage Sale was held at the Fresno Fairgrounds.

The 1980s included the establishment of the first Ronald McDonald House for the Central Valley, initiated by the Junior League of Fresno. Break the Barriers, an organization providing physical and cultural activities for disabled and able-bodied children, received funds to purchase a bus to transport the children. A public awareness campaign was the focus of the Adult Day Care project. Premature Parents was a song-writing contest involving young adults, which encouraged adolescents to avoid teenage pregnancy. The “How to Say No” program found Fresno members working with high school students to combat peer pressure. The Oral History project added to the Fresno County Library’s collection of Fresno’s past by the people who lived it. This decade also produced the local League’s “California Treasure” Cookbook that was a fundraiser for the next several years. In 1982, the Fresno League established the first annual Senior Girl Athlete Awards Dinner, because at the time there weren’t any other events honoring female athletes. In 1986, Impact Fresno, a committee of volunteers who provide assistance to many nonprofit organizations through short-term mini projects was established in Fresno and then emulated by Leagues around the country.

The 1990s saw the Junior League of Fresno adopt a focus area, “Children in Need,” whereby all projects and fundraisers focused their energies. The two biggest projects of this decade happened to both be on wheels. First the procurement of the original Blood Mobile for the Central California Blood Center (1991), and then the Shot Mobile (providing free immunizations) for the Fresno County Health Services Agency in 1997. Both of these mobiles continue to benefit residents in rural communities around the Valley, as well as serving citizens in the city of Fresno. Another undertaking of the Junior League of Fresno was the transformation of the Johnston Building at the Discovery Center from a shell of a building into a hands-on science classroom for the hundreds of children who visit each year. Other project collaborations that occurred during this decade included Footsteps of St. Agnes Medical Center, a child bereavement program, and The Sanctuary youth center, where League members were able to work directly with children in need.

From 2000 forward, the Marjaree Mason Center was the benefactor of the Junior League of Fresno, as members renovated one of the gathering rooms, developed therapeutic curriculum and activities for the children. In 2001, Exceptional Parents Unlimited, who works with disabled children and their families, received the gift of a playground used for therapy at its new center. During the 2001-2002 fiscal year, all Leagues celebrated the Centennial Anniversary of the Association of Junior Leagues International through their projects. The Fresno League sponsored a Stuffed Teddy Bear Drive to benefit emergency responders who deal with traumatized children on emergency scenes. In 2002, League sponsored a free Public Education Forum focusing on the plight of Fresno County’s youth. Through the Firefighters Creating Memories program, the Junior League has hosted families of medically challenged children at the Big Fresno Fair since 2000. Fresno County Family Court Services Division mediates over 7,000 child custody and visitation cases every year. In 2003-2004, the Fresno League renovated the Playroom and Waiting Room for the children. As Fresno County has the largest population of foster care youth (over 3,000) in Central California, the League worked with the Foster Care Permanency Planning Division during 2004-2005 to therapeutically enhance four visitation rooms where children try to maintain connections with their biological families. Then in 2005-2006, the League updated the Independent Living Program Resource Center Classroom used by youth turning 18 in foster care that are uncertain what will happen once they exit the system. The following year, the Life Skills Project for Foster Teens timing out of Foster Care was the focus of the Junior League of Fresno. In 2007, AJLI encouraged all Leagues to sponsor a “Kids In The Kitchen” event to address the national issue of childhood obesity. KITK has become an annual event. Since 2008, the Fresno League has sponsored the “Girl Power!” mentoring and self-esteem program for at-risk girls ages 9 to 18.

Junior League of Fresno, Inc.

516 West Shaw Avenue
Suite 200
Fresno, CA 93704
Telephone: (559) 221-2646
Fax: (559) 221-2660