Junior League of Atlanta president Deanna Anderson addresses the Atlanta City Council after her group was honored in October for its 100 years of service to women and children. CONTRIBUTED

Sunday Conversation with Deanna Anderson

Focusing on volunteerism, youth charities, Junior League more than ladies who lunch

You likely have heard of the Junior League of Atlanta but how much do you really know about this group of women? For instance, did you know that the Junior League is celebrating its 100th birthday? Or that it was instrumental in the founding of a dozen entities that serve the community, including the Atlanta Speech School, the Atlanta Children’s Theatre and the Atlanta Children’s Shelter? You may not know that the Junior League has been on the frontlines in the fight against the sex trafficking of Atlanta’s youth. The league’s president, Deanna Anderson, shed some light on the group’s past accomplishments and where it goes from here.

Q: In a nutshell, what is the Junior League’s mission?

A: Our mission is really threefold: promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women and impacting the lives of women and children. We have three main areas that fall under the women and children umbrella — early childhood education, generational poverty and commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Q: How has the Junior League of Atlanta changed over the decades?

A: The core mission is the same but the makeup of our members has changed dramatically. We are a much more diverse representation of our city and our communities, which has really allowed us to think about how we can tackle different issues. League women have never been afraid to roll up their sleeves and take on hard and difficult subjects. In 2008, we started working with community partners on the sexual exploitation and human trafficking of children.

Q: What did you all do on that front?

A: We work with our members to get them involved in advocacy from a very bipartisan perspective. On that issue, we worked very closely with the United Way of Greater Atlanta and other organizations that were really focused on passing the Safe Harbor amendment to provide funding for services like safe housing, trauma counseling and medical treatment for child victims. We also made a $100,000 investment in a new youth services center on the second floor of the Fulton County Juvenile Court.

Q: You’re in marketing. From that perspective, what are the Junior League’s biggest assets and challenges?

A: Let’s start with the challenges. I think our biggest one is the lingering perception that we are women who lunch. We need to ensure that we are telling the story of the power of our 3,500 women. That leads me to our biggest asset — our members. We have a robust training component throughout all of our league activities and really want our members to take that training and make lasting change in whatever areas they are passionate about. The league is an amazing way to network and at the same time help make our city a better place.

Q: Do most of your members work?

A: Most do work outside the home. We have tons of stories where our training has had a dramatic impact on the careers of our members. We like to say that the league is a safe place to fail forward and try something new.

Q: Why did you join?

A: When I was in college, I was very involved in my sorority and oversaw the Big Brothers Big Sisters program there. When I joined the league 11 years ago, I was looking for an opportunity to get more involved in the Atlanta community. I had a good friend in the league who not only had been able to impact the community but also had met an amazing group of women.

Q: What are you doing to celebrate your 100th birthday?

A: We started planning for our centennial 10 years ago. We will be investing $1 million into the Atlanta nonprofit community beginning in April 2017. Various nonprofits have applied for grants with the criteria built around how our investment can make transformational changes to the organizations and the communities they serve. Our hope is that our members will volunteer with the recipients and really be a part of bringing that transformation to life.

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