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Immediate Past President Lynn Tynes and President Brooke O'Reilly
Immediate Past President Lynn Tynes and President Brooke O'Reilly

Philanthropic Business of the Year Winner: Junior League of Springfield

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In just four years, Junior League of Springfield has stepped into the gap for 1,300 children through its largest community project to date, Isabel’s House, the Crisis Nursery of the Ozarks.

Opened in 2007, Isabel’s House is a safe haven for children when parents are faced with situations that could lead to abuse or neglect.

“I really believe we have prevented child abuse and neglect in those families we’ve helped,” says Brooke O’Reilly, Junior League of Springfield president.

JLS comprises about 600 trained volunteers who support the club’s current mission of reducing child abuse and neglect in the Ozarks. About eight years ago, JLS shifted from supporting many projects and issues to a singular focus on protecting children.

“Child abuse and neglect continues to be a red flag in our community,” O’Reilly notes. “We made it our mission to do what we can about it.”

Isabel’s House was the result of the club helping raise more than $4 million and donating countless hours. The house cares for an average of 11 children per day; it can accommodate up to 26 per day. JLS provides meals and snacks for the children while they stay at Isabel’s House, and the group also sends them home with new backpacks and clothing.

“We care for all their needs. If they are school age, we make sure they get to and from school. If they are in preschool, we have a variety of programs for them during the day,” O’Reilly says.

JLS also provides help and information for the families who place their children with Isabel’s house, to help them avoid future concerns.

JLS started in 1959 as the Community Service League of Springfield. In 1976, it affiliated with the Association of Junior Leagues International, and its main purpose has been to promote volunteerism and train volunteers. The women’s organization has distinct programs in place to prepare members for leadership positions within the league and in the community. Since 1959, JLS has contributed more than 1.3 million volunteer service hours and more than $4.6 million to the Springfield-area community, with volunteers averaging more than 20,000 service hours and $100,000 a year.  

The organization raises funds through corporate partnerships and fundraisers, including cookbook sales, the Plaid Door Resale Boutique and an annual charity ball.

The organization’s focus on children isn’t likely to blur anytime soon. According to www.jlspringfield.org, the local Junior League already is committed to numerous community projects for its 2011–12 year, including:
  • The Kid’s Clothes Closet, which provides clothing for Greene County foster children;
  • Boys and Girls Town of Missouri, which serves children who have been abused or neglected, or who have emotional or behavioral issues;
  • Kids Against Hunger, which works to educate and raise awareness of hunger issues;
  • Ozarks Counseling Center, which administers mental health assistance to local men, women and children;
  • Girls on the Run, an interactive life skills program for girls in grades three through five;
  • Springfield Regional Arts Council, which has programs aimed at reaching at-risk children through the arts; and
  • Newborns in Need, which provides clothing, blankets and other supplies for sick and needy babies and their families.
Through The Kitchen’s Rare Breed Youth Services division, JLS volunteers also will work to ensure that partner agencies involved with the Safe Place program have the necessary materials and signage to participate in the program.

“We will consider any project that has to do with reducing child abuse and neglect,” O’Reilly says.

From the 2011 Economic Impact Awards publication
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