In 1947, twelve young women met at the home of Mrs. Allen Harris, Sr., in order to organize the Junior Auxiliary. These charter members invited Mrs. Hanes Lancaster, Sr., Mrs. E. Haynes Miller along with Mrs. Harris to serve as their sponsors. From the beginning, the major concern of the Junior Auxiliary was to provide a service to the underprivileged children of Johnson City. To finance their projects they opened the Thrift Shop, which continued to be the primary source of income for community projects for more than forty years.
In 1955, most of the profit from the thrift store during this time was given to the Mental Health Center. In 1962, the Thrift Shop moved to a new location. In 1969, the Parks Belk Fashion Show was held to benefit the Thrift Shop. Thrift Shop moved again in 1973. In 1980, the League purchased its own building at 213 East Main Street for the Thrift Shop and renamed it the Nearly New Shoppe.
In 1986, the Nearly New Shoppe hired a full-time employee to work each day from 2-5 PM. In 1989, the Membership voted to close the Nearly New Shoppe and sell the property. The Nearly New Shoppe was sold August 21, 1989.
In 1992, the spirit of the old thrift shop was renewed through the League’s new major fundraiser call Bag-A-Bargain. It was a like a huge yard sale that was held at Freedom Hall in November. BAB gave customers the opportunity to purchase high quality, low cost goods. Remaining items were donated to other charitable organizations.
In 1952, the Junior Auxiliary recognized a need for mental health services in Washington County and began actively laying the foundation for a Mental Health Center. This led to the opening of the center in May, 1957.
In 1959, the JLJC purchased a lot upon which a new building for the Mental Health Center would be constructed. In 1962, the Mental Health Center opened its newly completed building on the site donated by the Junior Service League. It continues to be the major welfare project of the Junior Service League and has been the most comprehensive Mental Health Center in the state.
In 1964, the proceeds from the Follies (an entertainment/variety act show put on by League member and their husbands) were donated to the Mental Health Center. In 1965, a new lot was purchased for the center, and donations from the League continued annually until 1972 when the League hosted the formal dedication of Watauga Area Mental Health Center at 109 West Watauga Avenue.
In 1973, a donation was given to the Watauga Area Mental Health Center including money to pave the parking lot. The League continued donations, to the Watauga Area Mental Health Center in 1975.
In 1983, the annual donation to the Watauga Area Mental Health Center was used to purchase a large screen TV and VCR for use in the adolescent wing at the new Woodridge Psychiatric Hospital. The opening of this hospital is a real milestone for our community and is a definite outgrowth from the League’s support of the Watauga Area Mental Health Center. A donation was given to Watauga Mental Health each year until through 1992. In 1994, a check was presented to Watauga Mental Health Center to initiate foundation for a new Children’s Mental Health Services Facility.
The League also placed volunteer at Watauga Mental Health Center in such areas as the Child Abuse Review Team, Traces, and Therapeutic Nursery. In 1996, a check was given to Watauga Mental Health Center to help facilitate OPT (Offering Positive Techniques) for Success – a violence prevention counseling program for middle school age children.
The 1997 annual Bag-A-Bargain fund-raiser profits were donated to Mark Fox, CEO of Watauga Mental Health. The League donated monies from the 1998 Bag-A-Bargain to Frontier Health for OPT for Success program. Middle School students who are at risk for exhibiting violent behavior benefited from both traditional counseling and ropes course activities which work to build self esteem and positive interactions.
A donation was given to Hands On! Museum in 1987 to help them open their doors to the community. The League made donations to the museum until through 1995. From 1990 until 1999, League members served on the Board of the museum as an outside community placement. In 1996, the Provisionals partnered with North Side Hospital to plan and hold a “Health Safari” at Hands On! Museum, with a record number of 600 attending . The number rose to 1,000 in 1997. The League had begun the Kids on the Block project, a puppet show for educating children about other’s handicaps, in 1983 for use in local schools. This expanded to include such themes as sexual abuse, AIDS, divorce, and organ donation. In 2002, the League donated these puppets and skits to Hands On! Museum for their use.
In the 1997-1998 League year, League members celebrated the 51st year of the volunteer organization by creating a legacy project – a foundation jewel – to remain for years to come. With the support of the membership and community, we presented a donation to the Children’s Advocacy Center of the First Judicial District for the purchase of land and/or facility. “The CAC is a non-profit organization founded for the purpose of combating child sexual abuse and severe physical abuse. They will provide coordinated and comprehensive services to children and families who have been victimized by child abuse.” This organization was associated with many other non-profit organizations including Frontier Health, formerly Watauga Mental Health Center, which 60 years ago our League. Watauga was the first mental health center in this area and the CAC was the first Advocacy Center in our area.
By keeping overhead expenses for BAB minimal, the League was able to use proceeds from this sale and the previous year’s sale to make a donation toward the purchase of a building for the future CAC and interior design of the newly formed Children’s Advocacy Center. Renovations created a beautiful, tasteful, and inviting playroom/center using the theme “Every child deserves their own castle”. The first client was served in February 2000 and a Grand Opening was well attended by contributors, government officials, and the press.
In 2001, the League donated to the capital building fund to go toward the addition of an exam room which will lessen the trauma of children who are suspected of child abuse. The Sustainers donated an additional monies from the 1999 Tour of Dining Rooms, to be used at the CAC discretion.
In the Spring of 1997, League members adopted Johnson’s Depot Playground as a signature project gift to the community to commemorate the 50th Anniversary. This project was nominated for a Golden Rule Award. The Playground Committee planned, then kicked-off the fund-raising effort by utilizing the Gift Brick Program to acknowledge donations. For as little as $100 individuals and businesses could have a permanent part of Johnson’s Depot Playground at Willow Springs Park. League Sustainers took the fund-raising lead in planning the Holiday Tour of Dining Rooms. One hundred percent of the Tour’s proceeds were donated to Johnson’s Depot Playground. Members were trained by Eddie Bauer, a professional fund-raiser, how to make a corporate call to request funding for the playground and made many contacts. The dollars and pledges added up and the playground came closer to becoming a reality. Meanwhile, other members of the Playground Committee met with equipment vendors to research and choose the best, state of the art equipment available.