The History of the Junior League of Kalamazoo

The Junior League of Kalamazoo will celebrate 40 years (in 2020) of working to build a better community by focusing its volunteer and financial resources on the education and well-being of women and children.

Our Roots: The Service Club of Kalamazoo

Prior to joining the Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. (AJLI) in 1980, the organization was known as the Service Club of Kalamazoo. The Service Club was founded in 1928 with a charter membership of 22 women. Its objective was “to cheerfully render such services of the economic, educational and civic conditions as the executive committee shall deem fit.”

Over 5 decades, the Service Club of Kalamazoo donated more than $300,000 and gave over half a million hours in service to support the needs of the Kalamazoo community. We are very proud of our Service Club legacy and celebrate their achievements with this video of their work from 1928-1980.

Our Impact on the Community

Throughout its history, the Junior League of Kalamazoo has made a positive impact on thousands of individuals in the Kalamazoo area, supporting countless organizations over the years through its trained volunteers and financial gifts.

In 1995, the JLK received both the Governor’s Community Service Award and the AJLI/BMW Community Impact Merit Award for its work with the MOMobile and HealthConnect (now Healthy Futures) Program. In addition, our organization was invited to participate in the White House Dialogue on Maternal and Child Health.

In 1997, the JLK received an AJLI/BMW Community Impact Merit Award for Living with the Enemy and When Love Hurts. These programs were designed to enlighten the community about the cyclical damage perpetuated by domestic and relationship violence.

The JLK presented its first Festival of Trees to the community in 1989. This fundraising holiday event showcased the talent of local designers, offering uniquely decorated trees, wreaths and other holiday items. We also provided special events and a children’s area to fill every tyke’s eyes with holiday cheer.

This three-day event brought over 6,000 people downtown to enjoy the festival, downtown shopping and restaurants. Additionally, it allowed the JLK to fund its own projects and substantially increase grants to the community. This event raised more than $1.5 million over the past 20 years to meet a variety of needs in the Kalamazoo community.

In 2006, the JLK began to focus on childhood nutrition and obesity as part of an international AJLI project called Kids in the Kitchen. JLK developed their own Healthy Living Scorecard; this fun and educational scorecard helped children in the Kalamazoo community to adopt healthy nutritional habits. JLK worked with local organizations including The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo to share the Healthy Living Scorecard with groups of children.

In 2011, the JLK held its first Touch-A-Truck at the Kalamazoo Fairgrounds. Touch-A-Truck is a fun event for the whole family where kids, young and old, can learn about and touch an assortment of vehicles including police cars, firetrucks, race cars, construction equipment and many other unique vehicles from those who protect, build and serve in our community. Since its inception in 2011, Touch-A-Truck has grown into a much anticipated family event held every year in May.