The organization is based in a headquarters building on Larchmont Blvd., but it was conceived in 1925 in the living room of one of its 34 founders. That group of founding women, whose first project was a 12-bed children’s convalescent home on Ingraham Street (which became part of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles) quickly evolved into the Junior League of Los Angeles (JLLA) in 1926.
According to current JLLA president, Denise Snider Perlstein, the organization remains committed to promoting volunteerism throughout the community while developing leadership skills for women.
The JLLA’s Larchmont presence was emphasized at its autumn “Larchmont Day Out” that featured a day of local shopping in support of the League’s project partners.
Current JLLA programs include ones focusing on young people through increasing both literacy and self-esteem. The group’s “Thrive through Literacy” project has League members working with community partner organizations in seven different locations around the city. On a single day, they create an environment with themed decorations and crafts, and they provide snacks for children and parents.
Quoting one of her newer members, Perlstein said that the literacy program’s “opportunity to teach children the importance of reading and education was an invaluable experience”—one that the new JLLA member said, “truly helped me grow both personally and professionally.”
Perlstein explained that the success of these one-day literacy programs has led the JLLA to embark upon the creation of a “Literacy Toolkit” that will consist of flashcards in both English and Spanish to help parents engage with their children and build language skills. “During this year, we are incubating the project . . . testing out different approaches,” said Perlstein.
She explained that the typical JLLA project process takes from three to eight years, with the first year being the discussion of an idea and the second year being to test the idea while seeking potential community partners. The subsequent years of direct League involvement involve growing and strengthening the project so it may be left in the hands of the community partner or partners.
For example, another youth-oriented JLLA project, “Fostering Independence,” was in the incubating and testing stage last year. Now, working with community partner the Alliance for Children’s Rights, the two groups are serving needs of young women ages 14-21 who are currently in, or were once in, foster care.
Said Perlstein: “The project provides life skills classes for youth transitioning out of foster care. Topics have included interviewing skills, building a resume, money management, safe sex practices, stress management, and beauty/skincare 101.”
Perlstein said that the League has a 90-year history of developing, supporting, and launching more than 100 projects into the Los Angeles community. The JLLA “has been a driving force behind the kinds of initiatives and institutions that make our community a healthier, more vital place to live.”
Full disclosure: The writer’s mother was one of the founders in 1925.