The Junior League: Not Just Pearls and Bon-Bons

From Junior League of Winston-Salem (JLWS) President Aimee Rowe / Written by Mackenzie Cates-Allen
No – we do not just wear pearls & eat bon bons!!! This a HUGE stereotype we have battled for years. JLWS is comprised of women who are committed to giving back to their community. Our members choose to spend a minimum of 40 hours per year volunteering to improve the community, with many members giving significantly more time. We dig in the dirt at Goler Gardens, help read essays for Crosby Scholars, and stuff & deliver backpacks to Cook Elementary School.  This year we will start our partnership with READWS – hosting reading parties within the WS community and we will be helping Family Services with the diaper drive – collecting much needed baby items for new moms & families. The training our members receive enables them to become advocates, catalysts, communicators, and coalition builders. Our volunteers also utilize their JLWS training in their employment, education, and other nonprofit work, making lasting impressions that continue to ripple throughout the city and beyond.

jlws SWSF photo

What is the Junior League?
The Junior League of Winston-Salem, Inc. (JLWS) is an organization of women
committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. JLWS nurtures and educates individuals to build healthier families and a stronger community. JLWS has two main focus areas: educating and mentoring youth from birth to age 18, and addressing women’s health issues, specifically related to nutrition and wellness.

What makes the Junior League different from other women’s organizations?
Each year, JLWS members engage in over 4,000 volunteer hours supporting our
community projects which include BookWORM (Winston on a Reading Mission);
Strong Women, Strong Families; Community Baby Shower; Kids in the Kitchen; and our longest running volunteer placement – Child Abuse Puppet Show – since 1986 volunteers go in to every 3rd grade class in Forsyth County (48 schools in all) and perform a live puppet show teaching kids the importance of telling an adult if they, or someone they know, have been abused – physically or sexually, neglected & our newest vignette about the internet – safety tips while online. These projects and others support our commitment to promoting literacy, mentoring adolescents, and building healthier families. Our current membership is over 700 women, and we train more than 50 new members each year to address the needs of the community and to become dedicated and effective volunteers.

puppet show

What do you get for your membership fee ($225 the first year & $150 for active membership)?
– TRAINING – the key word in our mission statement.  We have a committee of volunteers who offer training for members ranging in all areas – financial stability for now & in the long haul, women’s safety & security (self defense), diversity in the workforce & community – are just a few to name.
– OPPORTUNITIES – we have so many different avenues to volunteer.  You can work with children & families in & throughout the Winston Salem community.  You can learn new skills and be on the marketing committee, learn to run a fundraiser, write stories for our publications or challenge the membership with our training opportunities.
– NETWORKING – with over 700 members in our organization you can meet someone from any path of life – college graduates, new-to-Winston, Moms, doctors, nurses, teachers, and so much more.
– FRIENDSHIP – I have met my closest friends through the JLWS.  Like minded women who are hard working, want to give back to the community and love to have fun while doing so.


What are you most proud of in your history?
Since its founding in 1923 (the very first junior league in North Carolina), JLWS has been, and continues to be, an integral and instrumental force for positive change in Forsyth County. Kaleideum (formerly The Children’s Museum and SciWorks), The Arts Council, and The Children’s Theatre are all Winston-Salem institutions that were established with the support and financial assistance of JLWS.  We also opened the Ronald McDonald House (originally called the “Rainbow House” until the Ronald McDonald House organization took over).


Goler gardens pic
Who is your role model?
This is a hard one because honestly I am inspired daily by women in our community, in my job, on my board of directors & in my circle of friends. I am in awe of mothers who work, volunteer, cook dinners & put not only their families first but their community as well.  I am motivated by women who have completed their active membership with the JLWS and move on to other organizations – sharing what they have learned through their league work & learn & grow with new opportunities.  I could never name one person and if I could take all of the ladies in my mind & make a super power it would be one hell of a Wonder Woman!


As the honored president of this amazing 95 year old organization I am “momma bear proud” of each & every member.  Seeing the new members learn & get excited about who we are & what we do; to the active membership diving in to their volunteer roles – learning new skills while helping the Winston Salem community.  And the sustainer membership who continue to be active role models for the younger members – passing along their knowledge & history while learning from the upcoming members – especially in the social media & tech savvy world!!  These woman work 40 – 60 hours
a week in their paid professions and then spend extra time giving back.  They are not sipping wine & shopping – they are digging in the dirt to collect vegetables for the Downtown Health Plaza; they are collecting books so that every child in Forsyth County will have a book to read & OWN; they are collaborating with Kimberley Park Elementary offering health & wellness clinics, providing a nutritious cooked meal for the families during events & offering dental screenings for children & adults; they are teaching kids how to be healthier while still having fun.


There are so many things that the JLWS woman are and NOT what the community view us as – ladies who wear pearls, lunch with friends & eat bon-bons…  98% of our membership works full time – they don’t have time to lunch!  And if they like wearing pearls it’s just because it’s a fashion statement – nothing more!


I am so passionate about who we are and what we do!! Our website offers a ton of info too 

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