When Shannon Fritz and her daughter Lauren go out to volunteer with the National Charity League, they always do so as a team.
The two help out once a month unloading produce at Bear Creek United Methodist Church and getting into the hands of those who need it most.
“I’ll be handing out food and Lauren will be pushing the cart with the client,” says Shannon, who is president of her local NCL chapter. Lauren practices her Spanish with Spanish-speaking customers while Shannon works alongside her daughter.
“I think the most important thing has been the two of us getting to work together with our philanthropies,” Shannon says.
Now in its 95th year, the National Charity League spans 29 states and contributes three million hours to more than 4,000 charities nationwide. The group, which is open to mothers and their teenage daughters, focuses on community service, leadership development and cultural experiences. Girls can join the program in seventh grade and participate until they graduate high school.
Locally, the group has seen tremendous growth. At their annual philanthropy gathering in February, the group registered 830 new members compared to 400 members two years ago. The district is home to 3,800 members in the northwest and west Houston areas including the Yellow Rose Chapter, Cypress Belles Chapter, Cypress Pearls Chapter, Cypress Creek Chapter, Cypress Gems Chapter, Champions Chapter and the Texas Diamonds Chapter.
Each chapter partners with different non-profit organizations in need of volunteers or services such as the Houston Food Bank, Boys and Girls Country or the American Heart Association. Shannon and Lauren volunteer several times a year preparing school-supply donations, serving as waitresses at a charity banquet and restocking a food pantry. Lauren, a ninth-grader this year who’s held different leadership positions, says the group has given her new life perspectives.
“It’s making me more thankful,” Lauren says. “It’s making me more aware of things I say or do and be more encouraging toward other people.”
Lauren has accumulated nearly 50 community service hours this year while juggling sports, school work and helping organize a father-daughter event.
“Honestly what we find in this day and age teenagers are very, very busy,” says Brenda Polivka, National District Coordinator. “There’s not a lot of time left one-on-one for mom and daughter. This organization helps you carve out that time.”
Girls who leave the program often find it helped them prepare for leadership roles in college groups, Brenda says. NCL has guided trainings to teach girls how to host events, resolve conflict, build confidence while supporting the group’s traditions, values and community connections. Knowing how to volunteer or how to run a meeting are key skills girls learn in NCL which prove to be valuable leadership experiences.
And while college is still years away for Lauren, she’s already learned a thing or two about leadership.
“I think to be a good leader in NCL you have to be able to take control of the room while acknowledging everybody’s feelings and be ready for anything,” she says.
The group’s membership drive starts in the fall and runs for about two months. To join, applicants must be sponsored, complete a selection process and pay yearly dues.