Our History In the Community

Since 1932, JLCU has made an impact on our community through the numerous projects started by our membership. Many of our projects were transitioned to become their own vibrant non-profit organizations or have been continued by our community partners. Below is a history of our past projects including those that remain an important part of our community.


Past Projects

Projects Transitioned to the Community and in Existence Today


Backpack Buddies

JLCU and the Eastern Illinois Food Bank have developed a partnership with area schools to help children who are identified at risk of going hungry or malnourished over the weekend by giving them food to take home while not in school. JLCU volunteers go to the Food Bank throughout the school year and pack grocery bags full of nutritious, easy to prepare, foods. The Food Bank delivers the stuffed bags to participating schools on Fridays. Additional funding has been provided for this program by CCMSI and other local businesses and agencies.

JLCU Donates $35,000 to Backpack Buddies, News Gazette article.


Eastern Illinois Foodbank Food for Families

The Eastern Illinois Foodbank, formerly the Central Illinois Foodbank, was founded in 1983. That June, the Eastern Illinois Foodbank was established in downtown Champaign. During its first year, the new EIF warehouse distributed about 30,000 pounds of food. Initially, just a few food donors gave nearly all the product that the Foodbank distributed—and there was very little community-wide effort to help the fledgling organization stock its shelves.

All that changed in 1987, when members of the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana piloted the first Food for Families drive. In its inaugural year, the drive raised an overwhelming 84,000 pounds of food and marked the first major effort to gain grassroots community support for the Foodbank. Junior League of Champaign-Urbana would continue to operate Food for Families on behalf of the Foodbank for more than a twenty years, working with key media partners and other supporters to grow the drive bigger and bigger each year. Food for Families is now the largest combined food and fund drive in the region.

Since then, support from the community has grown every year. Today, EIF distributes more than 7.5 million pounds annually on a budget of just over $2 million. Food from the Eastern Illinois Foodbank’s warehouse reaches more than 116,000 people visiting 220 agencies and programs each year.

More information can be found at www.eifoodbank.org

Check out this video commemorating JLCU’s involvment in EIF! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fOZq5wpwtk&feature=plcp


Developmental Services Center

The Developmental Services Center started out as the Community Rehabilitation Workshop.

In 1962, the Community Rehabilitation Workshop was founded and incorporated as a not-for-profit agency. The need for this workshop was recognized by a group of interested citizens, headed by the Mayor of Champaign (and acting Liquor Commissioner), Mr. Emmerson V. Dexter. Through this capacity, Mr. Dexter located a vacant tavern at 49 Main Street in Champaign, whose lease was held by the Holiday Inn. For 18 months, The Holiday Inn permitted five clients and one volunteer to use the site-rent free, allowing them to begin the Workshop.

The community pitched in to help fund the Workshop. A sale of furnishings from the Holiday Inn netted $400, and area organizations donated painting and renovation services. And the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana donated $5,000!

The first Board of Directors included Mr. Dexter and members of his committee, JLCU members, representatives of the Unit 4 Schools Pre-Vocational Office, and other community businessmen.

Over the years, the Workshop’s community support grew significantly, along with its need. Several name changes occurred as well. In 1962, the Workshop’s name was changed to Community Rehabilitation Center. In 1966, the Center’s outreach has expanded so significantly, that the name was changed to Champaign County Rehabilitation Center (CCRC). During this time, CCRC partnered with the United Way, a partnership it still maintains.

In 1972, CCRC joined together with three other community organizations: The Happy Day School, Togetherness Club, and the Mayors Action for Retarded Children. All four of these organizations are now collectively known as the Developmental Services Center.

Throughout its history, Junior League of Champaign-Urbana has been extremely supportive of the Developmental Services Center. Through volunteer hours, and monetary donations, JLCU continues to support DSC.

For more information, please visit the Developmental Services Center website, http://www.dsc-illinois.org/about_us/


Krannert Docent Program

Junior League developed the Krannert Docent program in 1973. The picture to the right is of Junior League members participating in the program in 1974.

The Krannert Docent program was developed in accord with Junior League of Champaign-Urbana’s focus at that time, which was continuing education. In the early 1970s, Junior League supported several programs that focused on continuing education, such as a reading program and the continuing education advisory program. Out of those programs, Krannert Docents has been passed to the University of Illinois, and is a self-sustaining program. When the program was passed to the University, Junior League extracted itself, allowing new projects to be established.

Krannert Docents is a program that trains community volunteers and University students on the permanent collection and special exhibits at Krannert Art Museum. The program also teaches art history and teaching techniques. Krannert Art Museum (KAM) volunteer docents lead tours to pre K-12 student and adult groups.

For more information on the program or to volunteer, please visit: Krannert Webpage


Crisis Nursery

The relationship between the Junior League of Champaign Urbana and Crisis Nursery dates back to Crisis Nursery’s beginnings – over 30 years ago! Junior League provided Crisis Nursery with some of its earliest funding, and its members helped staff the organization by caring for children, training other volunteers, assisting with fundraising, and contributing to our community outreach efforts.

Crisis Nursery was founded in 1981 by a nurse and social worker at Burnham Hospital. Together they recognized a need, and the Nursery was initially opened in a wing of the now-closed hospital. When the Hospital closed in 1992, the Nursery moved to a house donated by Provena Hospital. In 2001, the Nursery moved to its current location, which allowed the Nursery to expand its space. For more history on Crisis Nursery, please visit their website.

In the past several years, Crisis Nursery received many grants from Junior League’s Community Assistance Fund. This funding has helped purchase parenting education curriculum, which is used in parenting classes; furnishings for the facility; toys; and materials for volunteer training.

All of Crisis Nursery’s services are provided free of charge, which is only possible through the support of the community and groups like the Junior League.

Crisis Nursery is always in need of volunteers to help care for the children – especially during the summer time, when many of the student volunteers are away. For more information on volunteering, Crisis Nursery invites individuals to visit their website. They also appreciate in-kind donations from their wish list and monetary donations to help them fund their services.

Some tidbits of information about Crisis Nursery:

In Fiscal Year ’14, Crisis Nursery served 840 children from 546 families (unduplicated count) and provided 33,173 hours of crisis care. The Nursery also facilitated 65 parent support groups, 54 Parent-Child Interaction groups, and 1,001 home visits. Over the past five years, we have noticed an increasing demand for Crisis Nursery services, with number of children served rising approximately 37% and admission rates rising approximately 34%

Crisis Nursery creates an “Island of Safety” dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect by providing 24-hour emergency care for children and supportive services to strengthen families in crisis. Crisis Nursery is the only emergency-based child care facility open 24 hours, 365 days a year, for the entire Champaign County community to access with no fees or income eligibility. In addition to providing safe shelter to children ages birth through age six, we also support families through specialized programming, parent education, and home visiting services designed to strengthen parenting skills and confidence. Crisis Nursery believes that asking for help is a sign of strength.

Crisis Nursery is open for the entire community to access, but the majority of clients are low-income, single mothers who have no other resources available to help them. Crisis Nursery works with these families to keep their children safe in times of crisis and to help them move towards family stability, in addition to connecting them to other needed resources.


Courage Connection

In 1985, Junior League established a program called Emergency Food and Family Service. In June of 1985, that program was developed into the Women’s Emergency Shelter of Champaign County. In 1988, Junior League members volunteered to landscape the shelter. Members also held an Easter Dinner for the Women then residing at the shelter.

in 1971, another community service agency in Champaign-Urbana, developed A Woman’s Place (AWP), which was the first battered women’s shelter in Illinois. The shelter was operated by A Woman’s Fund until 2010.

In 2010, these two agencies combined, joining together as The Center for Women in Transition. A resale shop was opened to generate revenue, allowing the shelter to operate as an independent organization.

Numerous other agencies, such as UPS, the University of Illinois, and private donors, have enabled several properties to be renovated and donated. The Center for Women in Transition is now known as Courage Connection.

Junior League continues to provide financial and volunteer support for Courage Connection.

For more information on Courage Connection, how to donate, and a more detailed history, please visit: Courage Connection Website


Other Projects

  • Infant Welfare Clinic at Burnham and Mercy Hospitals, established 1936-37
  • Community Prenatal Clinic, first prenatal clinic in the area, established 1939-40
  • Prospective Parents Clinic, established 1949-50, transitioned 1965
  • Day Nursery, established September 15, 1954, transitioned 1973-74
  • Teen Center, established 1966-67
  • Tutors in Reading training program, 1973-74
  • Well Child Clinic, transitioned 1973-74
  • Projects for the Deaf, transitioned 1973-74
  • Art in Schools slideshows, began 1979-80
  • Emotional Child Abuse, established 1979-80
  • Operation Snowball, established 1980-81
  • Latch Key, established 1980-81
  • Character Education and Volunteer Coordinator training, established 1980-81
  • Childwatch, food pantry provided through Champaign County Family Services for family of four for four years, established 1984-85
  • Food For the 80s, food pantry program, established 1984-85
  • Historical Museum Docent program, established 1984-85
  • Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program, in conjunction with public school system, established 1984-85
  • Kids on the Block, transition to community 1995-96
  • Books By The Bushel 2000-2014
  • Head Start Reading Program 2002-2014
  • League Locker 1997-2015


Books by the Bushel

Books by the Bushel was conducted annually to provide books for the libraries in over 40 public and private schools in Champaign, Urbana, and Mahomet. Each school librarian submitted a wish list of books that would be valuable additions to their library. During the three-day event, members of the community purchased books from Barnes & Noble in Champaign and donated the books to their school of choice. A bookplate was placed in the book denoting the donor or an honoree. JLCU members then delivered the books to each school.

In 2014, over 680 books were donated from wish lists to school libraries. In addition, Books by the Bushel raised over $10,000 through purchases made at Barnes & Noble during the weekend event.


Junior League Locker

League Locker’s mission was to strengthen Champaign-Urbana public schools through re-distribution of donated new and reusable school and office supplies. As of the end of the FY14, $400,000 worth of school supplies were donated to students, $30,000 of which were distributed in FY14. Junior League locker served 445 teachers in search of a variety of supplies for students in their classrooms that did not have the resources to buy all the required supplies.