In 1901, Mary Harriman with 80 of her New York friends began the Junior League for the Promotion of Settlement Movements, later known as the Junior League.
On August 6th, 1923, “the original ten” met at the home of Mrs. John E. Barbey, and the Reading Junior League was formed. Mary Griggs Barbey was elected the first president, and 40 candidates and eight associates were proposed for membership. Her strength and character is evident in the following quote: “You have made the right start and Reading must take its place among the successful Leagues of the country, you cannot fail!…On you individually rests the future of the Reading League! Will you continue to grow into a power for good in your city or will you stand still?”
On October 15, 1930, the Junior League of Reading in a joint venture with city Recreation Department and the Reading School Board opened the Tyson-Schoener Recreation Center, the first in the city. In 1935, the JLR assumed sole responsibility for the Reading Country Club Horse Show and it continued to be the major fund-raiser during the 30s and 40s.
In 1940, the JLR celebrated its 17th year of community service. They moved the League Rooms from South 4th Street to the Abraham Lincoln Hotel. They also began a Theater Series. Some activities were curtailed because of the war, but the Provisional Course was expanded with more education about the community.
Members were moving to the outlying areas of the city and this spread the volunteer efforts. In an effort to increase membership education the number of General Membership meetings was increased to 8 and the active membership volunteered at 23 agencies and with 127 jobs per week and 29 members served on 17 boards in 1953.
JLR celebrated its 40th Anniversary and donated over $10,000.00 to the community to celebrate. The Hour Glass, the Junior League publication, officially changes its name to Berks Brief and adopted a more sophisticated format. In 1968, the Town Hall Lecture Series was brought to the community.
The education theme was Crime: Focus on Youth. After a year of planning, the JLR sponsored the Who Speaks for Youth Conference in March 1977. Nearly 200 people attended.
In May 1980 the JLR sponsored the 2nd Community Board Training Day in collaboration with the United Way and Penn State Berks Campus. Over 100 people from 35 non-profits attended. In October 1983, JLR sponsored a conference titled A Day for Women at Alvernia College, 450 women attended and chose from 24 available workshops.
In 1987, the Whale of a Sale became a major fundraiser.
LR required each committee to have at least one objective related to “Affordable Low Income Housing”. The result was to implement BEACON HOUSE, a collaborative project with YMCA, designed to provide families access to safe and affordable housing while moving from dependence to independence. League’s initial commitment was $25,000 and volunteer hours.
Leadership Berks was founded in 1985 by the United Way of Berks County, the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the United Labor Council, and the Junior League of Reading, PA, Inc. and became a fully immersed program of Alvernia University on July 1, 2009.
The Junior League of Reading began Kids in the Kitchen in 2006 by inviting Food Network Chef, George Stella to educate Berks County youth to make healthy lifestyle choices. Kids in the Kitchen is a nationally recognized program started by the Association of Junior Leagues International to help reverse the growth of childhood obesity and its associated health issues.
The first annual Touch-a-Truck was held in 2006 at the Pennsylvania State University Berks Campus. More than thirty-five vehicles rallied to give children a wonderful hands-on experience. In 2009, Touch-a-Truck became a Community Event and a New Member Project with continued success.
In May 2010, The Junior League of Reading First Annual Hunter Horse Show was held at the Berks County 4-H Agricultural Center. Beginning December 2010, JLR started a new tradition with its Holiday Kitchen Tour that showcases homes throughout Berks County.
In April 2011, the Junior League of Reading partnered with the Reading Phillies and the fifth annual Touch-a-Truck was held at the newly renovated First Energy Stadium. Over 300 people attended this event.
In February 2012, the first annual Young Women’s Summit was held to empower the young women in our community to be leaders and agents for community change.
In 2013, the program was expanded to Empowered Young Women’s Week and the project culminated in the release of an anti-bullying PSA.
We continue to celebrate the accomplishments of the JLR past, present and future.
Today, the Junior Leagues are charitable nonprofit organizations of women, developed as civic leaders and creating lasting community impact. The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. is comprised of more than 160,000 women in 292 Junior Leagues throughout Canada, Mexico, the UK and the USA. Collectively, we constitute one of the largest, most effective volunteer organizations in the world.