With the launch of our new #IAmJLL campaign we want to dig deep into what makes Junior League of Louisville so fabulous – the people and faces of the League! First up we want to feature the lovely Melissa Richards-Person. Melissa was the president of Junior League from 2006-2007 and is Vice President, International Marketing at Papa Johns.
Stay tuned for much more and a BIG thank you to Melissa for letting us pick your brain about JLL and what makes it so special.
Why did you join JLL?
I transferred from the Junior League of Seattle, although I was previously a member of the Junior League of Greater Orlando, and I originally joined the Junior League of Toledo. My story’s not that different from most women who join the league; I wanted to meet smart, driven women who were motivated to make things happen in the community!
What was your favorite project during your time with the League?
I have a lot of affection for a project from my first active year in Toledo, Ohio. It was a new community project, all about building kindergarten readiness for kids and instilling the importance of parent involvement in education through experiential learning events. We worked in a neighborhood that was designated the eighth poorest neighborhood in the U.S. at the time, and the reward for completing the program was a family membership to either the zoo, the science center or the art museum—all were organizations that partnered with us to provide lessons in the program—and bus vouchers for transportation to get there for the year after the program. I loved helping shape what the program became, as well as see how much the kids AND their parents learned by being a part of it.
What did you personally learn/gain while being involved in JLL?
It was a graduate-level education in people management! I had to align women with different viewpoints, perspectives, and backgrounds to help move things forward. And I probably learned MORE from the times I wasn’t successful than the times I was! It’s been amazing for me personally and for my career. I couldn’t do what I do now—get input and ideas from people all over the world and keep them focused on a set of goals and projects—without the things I learned at the “University of JLL!”
How do you feel JLL impacts the community?
Everyone typically sees our projects first—Race for the Cure, Be Fit, Be Fine, Noogiefest, etc.—and certainly those are legacies with lasting impact. But what Kentuckiana doesn’t see is our PEOPLE. The training and experience we give and the abilities we nurture in our members…THAT’S the REAL long-lasting impact of JLL. Women may spend 3, 5, 7, 10 years in the League, but they use those skills to serve the community in other organizations, projects, and programs for the next 30, 40, or 50 years! That’s the legacy I wanted to highlight when I thought about #IAmJLL—all of these amazing women whose training in the League has multiplied many times over in community benefit. I’m betting that a lot of people don’t even know that women who are working right alongside them on boards, in high-powered careers, or in creating the “next big thing” in Louisville are a product of the Junior League of Louisville. THAT’s the platform I hope we can highlight on our 95th anniversary!
With JLL launching our new Issue Based Community Impact (IBCI), what are ways you see the League impacting education in our community?
We will do what we always do in JLL. We’ll spend time getting to the root cause and find interesting and unusual ways to address it. The League has had the courage and the creativity to do things like take puppets into schools to talk about disability and inclusion, to partner with an African-American fraternity to develop a summer leadership development “camp” for kids in grades 6-9, or to partner with a theater group to talk to kids about dating violence. I can’t wait to see what this focus on education will bring to the JLL legacy of innovative projects!
If you know someone interested in JLL what would you tell them?
League members are “volunteer venture capitalists!” We find an unmet need, create projects and programs that address it, and then put time, money, and people against them to get them off the ground, sustain them, measure results, and turn them over to the community or other organizations to live on. If you can see yourself anywhere along that chain, you’ll find a place to develop yourself, reinvent yourself, try out new skills, and make lifelong friends while you’re at it.
Please feel free to share any additional thoughts.
The absolute BEST part of the League for me is the way you can completely change your role and your experience from year to year through the placement process. Want to try your hand in managing social media? Go for it! Interested in working hands-on with community organizations? There’s a place for you! Want to challenge yourself to develop management skills by leading a program or committee? You have that chance, too! Every year in the League can be a new opportunity…always with the connecting threads of meetings, social events, and fun that make you feel a part of a larger group of talented women coming together to make our community better.