The Junior League of Bakersfield is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and to improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.
The Junior League of Bakersfield was chartered as the Community League of Kern County in 1952 when a group of young women decided to join forces and create a new volunteer organization independent of schools and churches. It was a bold move back then.
Fifty women showed up to the first meeting, intending to eventually become a member of the Association of Junior Leagues of America, an organization of women committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. They could not have imagined then the extraordinary impact that decision would have on the lives of women and children, and on the community of Bakersfield and Kern County.
In the early years, the group focused on scouting, hospital gift shops, and arts and education for children. There was Saturday Adventurers, Young Audiences, pre-school vision screenings and book fairs.
This was a group on a mission. They financed their community support with an elegant society event, the Camellia Ball. In a little more than a decade, the organization had given back more than $100,000 to the community. It would pale in comparison to where the Community League was headed.
By 1965, the organization had satisfied the many requirements of the national Association of Junior Leagues, and on February 3, 1965, the Community League of Kern County was admitted as the 207th member of the Association of Junior Leagues of America, known today as the Association of Junior Leagues International.
Members widened their aim by assisting the under-served elderly population, helping to construct the Community House for seniors in 1966. By the 1970’s, the projects mirrored the oft-turbulent times. Programs were created to assist unwed mothers and raise awareness to drugs. The Junior League of Bakersfield also financed and developed the Lori Brock Children’s Museum on the grounds of Pioneer Village - an innovative and interactive museum experience for children.
By the 1980’s, Junior League, which had stopped holding its annual ball, embarked on more ambitious fundraisers like Holidays of Magic and Whale of a Sale. They were tremendous financial successes and enabled League to fund projects like CALM - California Living Museum.
By the 1990’s, the demography of the organization had changed dramatically. With many women in the workplace, meetings were held in the evenings to better accommodate members. In April of 1990, Junior League was a co-sponsor of the inaugural Bakersfield Women’s Business Conference.
In 1995, on its 20th anniversary as the Junior League of Bakersfield, the organization reached a milestone - $1 million in giving to the community. Two years later, it accepted the donation of the stately building at 1928 19th Street from the Wheeler Foundation. Formerly Payne & Son Mortuary, the organization restored the structure to its former grandeur, and for the first time it had a permanent place to all home.
Over the years, the Junior League of Bakersfield has also tackled litter, provided outreach to teens and the homeless, given mini-grants to educators, and raised awareness to disabilities, family violence and sexual assault, and the importance of court-appointed advocacy. To date, it has given an estimated $1.4 million back to the community.
In doing so, as the organization commemorates 50 years as a Junior League, its more than 450 members maintain its mission of making a difference in the lives of women and children in Kern County.