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A Lasting Impact

The Junior League of Dayton

Article by Jennifer Lorenzetti

Photography by The Junior League of Dayton

Originally published in Centerville Lifestyle

The Junior League of Dayton (JLD) has a rich history in the Dayton area. Founded over a century ago in 1919, JLD has been instrumental in providing volunteers who have helped start and nurture a number of institutions that are quintessentially Dayton. We caught up with JLD President Myla Cardona-Jones and President-Elect Jocelin Dean, to find out more about where the League has been and where it is headed in the future.

What in Junior League history are you most proud of? 

Myla: One of my favorite parts of our history is our contribution to the incorporation of our international organization, The Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI). AJLI was incorporated in 1921, and JLD was one of the first 30 leagues at the time.

Jocelin: When I look back at JLD history, one of the things that always stands out to me is the lasting impact we’ve had in the community. We assisted in opening the Dayton Art Institute, we helped form one of the first Girl Scout troops in southwest Ohio, and we helped establish Cox Arboretum. Our work with organizations like Daybreak and YWCA continue to benefit not only those organizations, but anyone in the community who interacts with them. 

What have been some of your most successful projects? What is the League working on now? 

Myla: In the 1920s, JLD stretched more than half of the gauze needed for Miami Valley Hospital and also sewed over 1,000 hospital gowns. From 1956-2011, JLD hosted one of the longest standing lecture series in all of Ohio. Our town halls brought in people from all over the state and focused on important topics and issues, hosting experts in those fields. The Town Hall Lecture Series is likely one of the most successful events that the league has and ever will accomplish; it is such a beautiful part of our legacy.

Today our focus area is literacy. The League has done a great job of partnering with local organizations committed to this important work, such as Brunner Literacy, Dayton Metro Library, Imagination Library, Preschool Promise, Project Read, YWCA, and so many more. The League implemented its Learn, Grow, Explore program in 2014, to address the “summer slide” and provide educational opportunities for children and their families throughout the summer months. Most recently JLD welcomed a “Little Black Dress Initiative,” which helped raise awareness and critical funds in the Dayton community, by sharing out local statistics on literacy and proficiency in our school systems and calling in the community to support the collaboration and implementation of more programming aimed at addressing these disparities.

How does JLD choose which projects to get involved with?

Jocelin: This is actually something that we’re in the thick of right now, which is really exciting! Determining where to put the League’s efforts comes down to two basic principles: Where is the need; and where do our members want to focus their time and energy? When we switched our Community Impact focus to literacy, we spent a lot of time meeting with different community stakeholders, organizations, and leaders within the local government. These conversations allowed us to better understand some of the challenges facing Dayton; and then we (our League leaders and general membership) ultimately decided where we could have the greatest impact.

The second phase for us will be digging into this issue a little further. We’ll be launching the upcoming League year with a presentation from Montgomery County Educational Service Center on the distinct “mile markers” around literacy efforts, going back to our members to see where they feel we can have the greatest impact, and then embarking on a bit of a listening tour with area nonprofits and organizations, to understand their efforts and see where we can be of service.

What are the challenges to your membership as women are increasingly in the workforce, as well as volunteering?

Jocelin: This is the million dollar question, right? When JLD and then AJLI were formed, there weren’t as many women in the workforce. Additionally there weren’t that many other organizations for women to be a part of. Now not only are the majority of our members working full time, but they likely also belong to other professional, networking, or nonprofit service organizations. 

Our leadership has gotten really, really good over the last couple years at being flexible and adapting quickly to what members are telling us. At the end of the day, the reason that members join the League hasn’t changed: It’s the desire to make a tangible and lasting impact in our community, while connecting with other members who have a similar drive. And as long as that remains our driving force, we can do that with any number of members giving any amount of their time and talents to the League. 

To learn more or become a member, visit