September 2020 President’s Perspective

Dear Junior League of Omaha members,

Happy September! Every day, I’m amazed by how agile and optimistic our members have been as we all adjust to a new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic. Case in point: we are holding our first-ever virtual General Membership Meeting this month on Tuesday, September 15 at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. I’m excited to bring you an incredible speaker, licensed mental health practitioner and counselor Nicole Crawford, who will be presenting on “Locating Yourself in the Midst of Chaos.” She will give members practical tips and guidance on how to pursue mindfulness and wellness during these unusual times. Be sure to sign up on Digital Cheetah for the Zoom log-in details.

Junior League of Omaha members have been responding to present needs, carefully coordinating community impact programming and adapting our engagement opportunities to accommodate our members. We are also thinking about our future, crafting initiatives to ensure the long-term sustainability and success of the organization. Despite the current state of our world, JLO women understand we need to continue to plan for what lies ahead.

This brings me to the topic of this month’s letter: the future. Our 2020-2023 Strategic Plan calls for JLO to execute on four main strategic goals related to community engagement, member experience, financial sustainability and League growth and visibility. You can view the entire strategic plan here. This three-year plan will help focus our efforts and steer our (rather large) ship in the right direction.

But how else can we ensure our organization is being set up for success? What does success even look like? No one person or group can define how best to move JLO forward. I’m asking for your help, as Junior League of Omaha members. We want to know how we can curate programming to meet your needs and preferences. 

Fundraising Research
The newly-revamped Fund Development Committee, led by Chair Madeline Haas and Vice Chair Amanda Horn, has been starting to pull together ideas for a new fundraiser. In addition to our current fundraising initiatives, we are hoping to diversify our efforts and stand up a long-term, signature League event.

We are hoping each and every JLO member can take a few minutes over the next month and take our Special Event Fundraiser Research Questionnaire. It should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. The results of this survey will truly shape the next fundraising event, so your input is important!

A special thank you to Fund Development Sustainer Advisor Mikaela Borecky for her leadership and guidance to this committee. As the Senior Director of Fund Development for the Greater Omaha Chamber, her contributions have already proved invaluable during this process.

Bylaws, Policies and Procedures
The Governance Documents Special Committee has been hard at work since the spring reviewing and drafting proposed amendments and revisions for the JLO Bylaws, standing rules and policies. Using AJLI’s Bylaws Template Toolkit, this group has taken on the challenge of streamlining our various governance documents, aligning with the most current Nebraska statutes and ensuring there is no duplication or conflict. Led by Executive Vice President-Elect Alysia Radicia, the group has completed a rough version of the newly-proposed Bylaws and has moved into “policy land.”

Over the next few months, you’ll begin to see opportunities to review and provide feedback on these ever-so-important documents. We will send out the Bylaws revisions in a rough draft format in the Hot Sheet, and then will hold various in-person and virtual sessions to answer any questions you may have and hear your thoughts on the proposed changes.

If you have any immediate suggestions for what you think should be included or changed in our governance documents, please email me directly.

Thank you to registered Parliamentarian and JLO Sustainer Lori Bucholz who has been helping our special committee. Her knowledge of and experience with parliamentary procedure has been incredibly helpful as we move through this complex and nuanced process.

Diversity & Inclusion Multi-Year Plan
Another important planning initiative we are undertaking is that of the D&I Multi-Year Plan. Under the League Growth and Visibility goal in JLO’s Strategic Plan, there are two objectives that speak to integrating D&I into our League:

  • Objective 4.1: By 2021, the League will implement an intentional membership recruitment strategy, working to ensure the New Member classes increasingly reflect the lived experiences of those we serve.
  • Objective 4.2: By 2022, the League will establish an inclusive environment through integration of equity, diversity and inclusion principles into organizational operations and culture.

To ensure we are staying on track, even during these unusual times, a small task force is working with the D&I Committee to compose a multi-year plan that will guide efforts to achieve the goals set forth in the strategic plan.

Do you have an idea about how JLO should strategically embed D&I into our operations? If so, email the D&I Committee

You Go, Girl!
Finally, this isn’t technically a future-related initiative, but it’s so exciting I needed to give it a shout-out! Corresponding Secretary Jillian Humphries has initiated a recognition campaign called “You Go, Girl!”

The Board of Directors would like to know more about what amazing things our members are doing! Do you know a member who has celebrated a milestone? Been recognized for an award? Added a little one to their family? Been an outstanding volunteer? If you know someone who deserves some praise, please complete this form. We will coordinate a special kudos, recognition, or show of support for her.

Stay safe and well! Have a great September, and thank you for all you do for JLO and for our community.

In gratitude,

League Co-Chairs to Boutique Co-Chairs: Serving a Community Placement

Both Cat Enenbach and Ashley Rich have dedicated countless hours of service to the Junior League of Omaha. Serving as Big Red Block Party Co-Chairs and in other leadership positions across the League, the 2020-2021 League year looks a little different for Cat and Ashley. These two dedicated volunteers chose a community placement, allowing them to dedicate more time to be Co-Chairs of the Rose Theater Guild’s Boutique.

What is Community Placement

Members like Cat and Ashley, who actively volunteer for multiple or major non-League community events and organizations that require increased involvement, are able to participate in a community placement. A community placement takes the place of a traditional committee placement. While members are able to serve on other community boards for placement credit, they are still required to attend five General Membership Meetings and fulfill their impact volunteer shifts.

Why They Chose Community Placement

After working full-time as a labor and delivery nurse, and as an adjunct professor at the Creighton College of Nursing, all while finishing her Master’s, serving as the League’s New Member Chair, volunteering at non-League organizations and giving birth to her second child, Cat was in need of a less time-intensive League placement. Instead of a traditional committee placement, she applied for a community placement which allows her to serve as the Rose Theater Guild’s Boutique Co-Chair alongside Ashley, who also opted for community placement.

Since Ashley served as Big Red Block Party Co-Chair, Cookbook Co-Chair and Corresponding Secretary and was double placed on the Communications Committee for some of these positions, she wanted to take a step back and dedicate more time to other organizations that she’s a part of. Along with being a Co-Chair for the Rose Theater Guild’s Boutique, Ashley also serves as the Friendraiser Chair for the Omaha Children’s Museum Guild and Vice President of the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County Scholarship Program for her placement.

Cat and Ashley Serving in the Community

As Boutique Co-Chairs, Cat and Ashley manage the Rose Theater Guild’s second largest source of funds. Ina normal year, they would manage volunteers and stock the Boutique allowing theater patrons to roam and purchase show themed items. However, with the Boutique being closed, Cat and Ashley are having to find creative ways to sell items while encouraging social distancing. To do this, they have created the “Boutique Box,” a box of show themed crafts, snacks and other knick knacks. While selling and distribution logistics are still up in the air, these incredible volunteers aren’t letting Coronavirus stand in their way.

For more information on community placement, email placement@jlomaha.org.

Amazon Smile: You shop. Amazon Gives to The Junior League of Omaha!

Did you know that you can set up your Amazon account to automatically donate to The League in under 5 minutes? Most Amazon purchases are eligible for AmazonSmile and help you pay it forward in our Omaha community. AmazonSmile donates 0.5% donation of all eligible purchases to your chosen organization. From the ease of your phone or computer, you can make a difference in our Omaha community by giving back while you shop for everyday products to the unique Amazon finds!

How does the Junior League of Omaha use donations in our Omaha community?

With over 100 years of meeting volunteer service and experience, the Junior League of Omaha is turning that experience and enthusiasm to address one of Omaha’s most critical and unmet needs – hunger and access to healthy food. According to the Food Research and Action Center, Nebraska is 7th in the nation for food insecurity, and 1 in 6 Nebraska children struggle with hunger (Map the Meal Gap). Fortunately, Omaha has many organizations doing outstanding work to alleviate hunger and provide access to healthy foods. We’re putting our volunteer power behind these community organizations to help grow, harvest and distribute healthy food, and most importantly, provide critical education about nutrition and cooking to the most at-risk populations. In partnership with these organizations, the League is able to amplify their impact, while building out new support and education programs that we are uniquely qualified to tackle.

Our community partners include:

– The Heart Ministry Center

– The Abundance Garden at the Union for Contemporary Art

– The Big Garden

– No More Empty Pots

– Together Omaha

– The Intercultural Senior Center

In addition to working with our community partners to address food insecurity in our Omaha community, the Junior League of Omaha issues local community assistance grants annually. Over the course of the 2019-2020 League year, we were able to issue $5,250 in grants to local programs or projects that support and pertain to the needs, benefits, enrichment and enlightenment of women and/or children.

Since 1992, each May, the League also has the pleasure to award three $2,000 scholarships to female high school seniors who demonstrate outstanding volunteer performance in the community. 

How do you set up AmazonSmile? 

From the Amazon App:

  1. Open your Amazon App. 
  2. Open the Main Menu (three horizontal lines at the top left).
  3. Scroll down and select “Settings”
  4. Select “AmazonSmile”.
  5. Change Charity to “Junior League of Omaha Inc”, if you have not already added AmazonSmile to your account via your browser.
  6. Turn your phone settings from “OFF” to “ON”.
  7. Congratulations! You did it! Start donating while you shop right away! Now you’re all set to donate while you shop from Amazon on-the-go!

From your Browser:

  1. Sign in to smile.amazon.com on your desktop or mobile phone browser.
  2. From your desktop, go to Your Account from the navigation at the top of any page, and then select the option to Change your Charity. Or, from your mobile browser, select Change your Charity from the options at the bottom of the page.
  3. Select a new charitable organization to support.
  4. Scroll Down to the “Other Programs” Section. Click Change your Amazon Smile Charity.
  5. Search for “Junior League of Omaha Inc”.
  6. Select “Junior League of Omaha Inc” as your charity.
  7. You did it, again! Make sure you never miss an opportunity to donate while you shop & add AmazonSmile to your bookmarks! Click the star where the URL is and that will allow you to add a bookmark from most web browsers!

Cool Down With Cocktails

Looking for a light and refreshing drink to cool down in the summer heat? Check out this recipe for Whiskey and Bubbles! The Champagne and whiskey base with a splash of lemon will give you the cool down you’ve been looking for and is the perfect drink for Labor Day Weekend! 

Whiskey and Bubbles is one of the recipes in the Junior League of Omaha’s A Century of Serving cookbook, available online and in stores now. 

Whiskey and Bubbles

# Servings: 2 Category: Beverages

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon warm water
  • 2 cups ice
  • 2 ounces whiskey
  • ½ ounce yellow Chartreuse
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 2 ounces Champagne
  • 2 spiral-cut lemon twists

Directions

Combine the honey and warm water in a small dish and mix well. Fill a cocktail shaker with the ice. Add the whiskey, Chartreuse, lemon juice and honey mixture. Cover and share vigorously. Strain into 2 chilled double old-fashioned glasses or Champagne flutes. Add 1 ounce of the Champagne to each flute and stir. Place a lemon twist on the rim of each flute and serve.

Maximize Your League Experience with Mentorship

Brunch 5K. Project Hope Pack. The Jumble Shop. And multiple cookbooks including 2018’s A Century of Serving: A Centennial Cookbook Celebration. Some projects and events, past and present, are what the Junior League of Omaha is known for around the community.

Others quietly inspire within the League, like Mentorship, which during the 2020-2021 League year celebrates eight years of engaging and retaining current members by fostering relationships between Active Members with 1-2 years in the League and those with three or more.

Mentorship is a “unique way to make connections with others in the League,” said Sustainer Lizzy Darling, who was a mentee for one year and a mentor for three. “As someone newer to JLO, it was an awesome way to build relationships with more seasoned members who could offer guidance on League involvement. Everyone involved in Mentorship seems to be eager to get to know one another, help and raise each other up. It’s an incredible program.”

Want to be a part of it? Complete this registration and profile form by August 21 to get paired with a mentor or mentee.

“I believe that Mentorship strengthens the League,” said Lakelyn Hogan, a former Mentorship Chair and current Mentorship Committee Sustainer Advisor. “It allows members to form new connections and it gives newer members a chance to connect with someone who is more seasoned.”

Lakelyn and a former mentee Allison Kousaie enjoying happy hour at Timber in Countryside Village.

The Mentorship program is for first- and second-year Active Members (mentees) who are paired with a mentor who is a minimum three-year Active Member based on common interests.

“The most rewarding part of Mentorship for me was getting to meet women that I normally would not have encountered during my time in JLO,” Lakelyn said. “I was always paired with great mentors and mentees. Because of that, I have made a lot of good friends through the program.”

Matches are made in the fall and introduced at Mentorship’s kick-off where they undergo a brief training to discuss the program expectations.

“You have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Lizzy said. “If you enjoy socializing with your peers, getting brunch or a glass of wine, playing a round of golf or doing a craft project, you will love being part of this program. The matching process is quite intricate and impressive. There is a lot of thought that goes into making a good connection between you and your match. Participate in this program to make the most of your League experience.”

The Mentorship Committee pairs together a mentor and mentee(s) to help facilitate social interactions outside of the normal League engagements and offer a special 1:1 or 2:1 connection. Through the program, participants can gain a deeper understanding of the League, find opportunities to network and form new friendships.

“By far the relationships” are the most rewarding part, Lizzy said.

“Make the most of your match,” she said. “Try to connect often, even if only by email. Everyone is busy. Agree what amount of time you can give and then be responsive. Everyone in the match has something to learn and to impart.”

Mentorship requires only a commitment for the League year, but many find themselves coming back year after year.

“I’ve been involved with Mentorship for seven years,” Lakelyn said. “I was involved from the very beginning. It has been my favorite part of my League experience.”

To learn more about the Mentorship Program, read these frequently asked questions.

Mentorship Chair Allison Zach can be reached at Mentorship@JLOmaha.org.

Snapshots from Mentorship

Sustainer Spotlight – Jessica Holdenreid

Meet one of Junior League of Omaha’s Sustainers, Jessica Holdenried!

“I currently manage the Project Management Office at Nebraska Medicine. I am lucky to have an awesome team of projects managers that work to support the goals of the organization in whatever way possible. I moved to Omaha from Wisconsin in 2009 and originally thought I would only stay for two years. This city has a way of keeping you here! My husband Jake and I have two daughters Charlotte (two years) and Anna (10 months).”

“One of my favorite JLO experiences was working on food photography with Joshua Foo and Kendra Delacandena for the JLO Cookbook. It was an area that both Kendra and I had no experience in and really pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone.”

“While this hasn’t been the spring we’ve all planned for I’ve found a lot of comfort in finding time for the little things. We’ve really enjoyed slowing down and being able to have daily family walks and a lot of FaceTime with family. This year I am serving on the Sustainer Advisory Council to the Sustainer Engagement Committee.”

President’s Perspective – July 2020

Dear Junior League of Omaha members,

As I write this month’s President’s Perspective, I’m acutely aware we are all feeling the weight of the global pandemic, the deaths of Black Americans across the country and the economic downturn. In the wake of such significant events, it can be challenging to identify how we can help individually and as an organization. While the start of this League year certainly looks different, I’m confident we will continue to thrive and be a force for positive change in the Omaha community. While I’ve chosen to highlight this month the work JLO is doing in our community and advancing equity, diversity and inclusion, I know all of our members are giving back to our organization, to Omaha and to each other. Thank you for your service and leadership during these difficult times.

As a reminder, JLO’s COVID-19 Summer Operational Guidelines can be found here

Community Impact

For the first time in three years, our League has a new program aligned with our community impact focus area, hunger and access to healthy foods. Despite the social distancing required by the COVID-19 pandemic, our Food Access Committee led by Chair Shannon Lang has been passionate about providing engagement opportunities to members. Throughout June and July, JLO volunteers have been working outdoors in Together’s new community gardens planting, weeding and watering. Together aims to prevent and end homelessness in Omaha. Their case managers utilize tools to either rapidly rehouse or keep a household in their home.

JLO members have been able to sign up to work with Heart Ministry Center, which provides basic necessities, educational opportunities, health outreach and support to individuals and families in north Omaha and surrounding areas. Volunteers have assisted with food pantry operations, including unloading food in the warehouse, packing pantry boxes and loading boxes into cars. 

There have also been volunteer shifts scheduled with No More Empty Pots, an organization that provides emergency response to urgent community needs for food relief. Each Wednesday, JLO volunteers portion out the prepared meals then package, label and bag them for distribution to the community.

For those members who aren’t yet ready to volunteer in-person, the Food Access Committee organized various Google Meet virtual shifts in June in which volunteers compiled recipes of quick, easy and affordable meals. They then catalogued the recipes by ingredient so that our community partners can quickly find and print them to share with their clients. These recipes have been provided to local pantries, meal services and community-supported agriculture programs for distribution to community members who are unsure on how to utilize various food items.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

On June 3, 2020, the new Board of Directors issued a public statement in response to the deaths of George Floyd and James Scurlock, and the nation-wide protests against racial inequality. Our organization calls on each member to “…commit to listening and educating ourselves. We must do the work, we must speak out, and we must be visible.” The full statement is available on our website here.

The JLO Diversity & Inclusion Committee has been working hard to bring opportunities for doing the work, speaking out and being visible. May’s “What is My Role in Advancing Racial Equity?” and “Gender Inclusive Language and Practices” prompted members to evaluate their intrinsic racial and gender biases and intentionally begin reframing thought patterns. “Undesign the Redline,” presented by The Union for Contemporary Art on June 25, was a virtual version of the in-person exhibition designed exclusively for JLO members. Sue Stroesser from The Union engaged our members in a dialogue surrounding the history of the redline in Omaha along with how it is currently impacting our community. The recording of “Undesign the Redline” will be available for JLO members soon – stay tuned!

Communications Project Management Chair Jess Winter, who is a school librarian with OPS, recently wrote a post on JLO’s Connections Blog titled “Books are incubators” – Stories Cultivating Empathy. I encourage you to read it here. My family and I are making a conscious effort to expand our family book collection to include works that incorporate diversity. In her post, Jess discusses why it is important to amplify diverse voices and includes resources for adding to your library.

Also in June, D&I Committee Chair Stephanie Kidd and I hosted our first D&I Leadership Roundtable for committee chairs, Council leaders, Management Team and Board. We will continue these roundtables throughout the year to provide our League members the opportunity to ask honest questions and learn from each other. The next D&I Leadership Roundtable will be held on Thursday, July 30, at 7 p.m. Please sign up on Digital Cheetah. Stephanie and I are looking forward to hosting a roundtable for all JLO members early this fall.

Finally, you may have noticed a new standing feature in the weekly Hot Sheet, the D&I Corner. The committee has been using this space to share information, updates and resources related to equity, diversity and inclusion. Some of the weeks will include links to external resources. I encourage you to take advantage of these learning opportunities and send Stephanie and her team any resources you think might be beneficial to share.

Getting to Know You

Each month we will feature a new League leader to get to know in the President’s Perspective. This month I’m sharing a bit about myself.

I grew up in Dallas, TX and my family lives in Rapid City, SD. I’m married to Adam, who grew up in Blair, and we have two cute kiddos: Tommy is four and Vivian is 13 months. I’m a nurse practitioner and oversee risk management and regulatory standards for Methodist Hospital and Women’s Hospital.

I joined Junior League in Minneapolis, MN and was a member in Corpus Christi, TX before moving back to Nebraska. I’ve held various placement in JLO, including Big Red Block Party chair, communications chair and Executive Vice President.

When I’m not spending time with my family or working, I enjoy reading, trying new restaurants and drinking wine. Adam and I also love to travel; our favorite destinations are Hawaii and Napa Valley.

Stay safe and well! Have a wonderful month and thank you for all you do for JLO and for our community.

In gratitude,

Katie Triplett | Junior League of Omaha

President 2020-2022

Undesign the Redline Recap Blog

On June 25, the Junior League of Omaha had the honor of hosting the first virtual tour of The Union for Contemporary Art’s Undesign the Redline exhibit. Led by Susan Stroesser, a volunteer of The Union, and Paige Reitz, deputy director of The Union, our members had the opportunity to learn about the history of the redline in Omaha and the lasting impact that we can see today.

According to The Union, “Beginning in 1936, the neighborhoods of Omaha’s Near North and South sides were systematically segregated from the rest of the city by means of prohibitive and discriminatory home lending practices. In Omaha, and cities across the country, red lines were literally drawn on city maps by the federally-funded Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, identifying predominantly African-American and immigrant communities as “hazardous” and unfit for investment.

Systemic challenges today, like inequalities in housing, education, income, criminal justice and health are far from separate issues. These challenges are rooted in a deep and entangled history of policies, practices and processes that remain unrevealed and misunderstood. As new forces begin to transform cities and towns, decisions about interconnected challenges are therefore often made ‘in the dark.’”

The virtual training enabled League members to have meaningful conversations that encourage us to continue learning and growing as a League. It also provided us with a connection to the communities that we are predominantly serving in our new Hunger and Access to Healthy Foods focus area. Of our five current community partners, all five are in the top ten zip codes of poverty in Omaha, and two of them are in the number two spot. All of these community partners are located in areas that were previously redlined.

Historic Omaha Redlining Map

Below are comments from a few attendee’s experience. “I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to virtually tour the Union for Contemporary Art and learn about structural racism in both its current and historical context within our community. The virtual docents were incredibly knowledgeable in leading discussion and providing relevant resources. These critical conversations are necessary within the Junior League of Omaha, and I am glad that our members are committed to growing and learning. It is clear that we can do better, and experiences like this offer us an opportunity to expand our understanding and better serve our community moving forward.” – Anne Bowen, Placement Chair

“Omaha has a history similar to so many cities of similar size – and lots of our members have no idea how much racism is a part of that history. The Union’s Undesign the Red Line training helped us learn about the intersections between red lining, public school segregation, public transportation, food deserts, and a lack of healthcare facilities in both north and south Omaha. For many of our members, it was the first time these issues had ever been discussed, and the Union does such an incredible job addressing the topics that no matter where you are on the journey, there is something for everyone. I loved how the Q&A at the end allowed of members the chance to share stories and connect their own lived experiences to the content of the exhibit. It was especially helpful to have Paige in the training to provide research in the chat for us as topics came up.” – Stephanie Kidd, Diversity and Inclusion Chair

“The ‘Undesign the Redline’ event was incredibly timely and insightful. This event proactively addressed and educated membership on systemic race issues. The speaker provided a detailed history of segregation and racism within the Omaha community and a few league members shared their personal stories which further demonstrated the persistent nature of the issue. The educational impact of this event is meaningful and it was one of my favorite JLO events as a result!” – Sophia Petrow, Done in a Day Vice Chair

Shannon Lang, Hunger & Access to Healthy Foods Chair

Learning followship through service

By Sarah Antonello, New Member Recruitment Coordinator

Volunteers at No More Empty Pots

During a typical day working at Heart Ministry Center’s (HMC) drive-through food pantry, the cars are ushered through the line as quickly as possible in order to serve as many community members as possible. But on one hot, humid Friday in June, one of the clients asked if she could pray with and for us. Taking that moment to pause in the middle of the frenzy struck me deeply at the time, but the moment has stayed with me in the weeks since. It has been as a reminder of the power of community and the value of serving others. The HMC staff and volunteers frequently tell the pantry clients, “Thank YOU for the opportunity to serve you,” as they drive away; that moment of prayer was the first time when I understood how grateful I was to be able to serve. 

As members of the Junior League of Omaha, we tend to focus on being leaders in the community. But in my time at Heart Ministry Center and No More Empty Pots, two of the organizations JLO works with on the new focus area of hunger and access to healthy foods, I’ve found myself following others more often than I’m leading them. I have wanted to make suggestions and tweaks to improve efficiencies (that’s what I did in my day job), but what I’ve gotten to do instead is work on listening more than speaking, to strengthen and flex my humility muscles, and to be reminded of the innate humanity inside us all, regardless of the situation we find ourselves in. 

In mid-May my job was downsized as part of the company’s pandemic response. I found myself scared, anxious, angry and lonely during the seemingly-endless stretches of days at home with no one to talk to. When the chance to start volunteering regularly through JLO’s Community Impact programs came up, I was ecstatic. Eagerly I signed up for multiple shifts, expecting this volunteering work to help with my loneliness and boredom, but it has done so much more. 

Volunteers at Heart Ministry

This volunteering work has tested what I thought about myself. It hasn’t always been comfortable – physically or emotionally. But I’m developing a new skill: followship. And while I’m learning to follow, I get to observe those that are learning to lead, providing all of us the opportunity to develop and grow. 

I joined the Junior League so that someone would organize volunteering opportunities for me. It was something I wanted to do, but there were so many causes that I couldn’t pick. As I learn more about food insecurity, I see how it perpetuates historical inequalities, frustrates education efforts, destroys communities and threatens the health and well-being of so many of our neighbors. 

The work JLO is doing with its hunger and access to healthy food focus area is vital to the stability, health and wellbeing of our community. The partner organizations we work with have created robust programs and initiatives fighting to end food insecurity, and we are able to lend our time, energy and sometimes sweat to the cause, exponentially increasing the impact we can have, together.

“Books are incubators” – Stories Cultivating Empathy

“Books are incubators.” Jason Reynolds’ words resonate. I imagine books hatching open worlds, creating images, and stories not only of things we love but questions and conversations. Right now, we need the incubators of stories to cultivate empathy.

Librarians curate book collections, which represent our students, their backgrounds and stories. They are mirrors into their lives and windows into someone else’s life.

Now think of that favorite book as a child or even a current one. Did it mirror your life?  What is it a window into someone else’s life? What is a sliding glass door where you became part of the story? When was the last time you or your family read a book with a character that looked different than you? Or had a religion or an experience that you did not understand?

I ask this because our books lack diversity, creating singular viewpoints of stories. Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her Ted Talk explains when she was young, she only saw windows into other people’s lives and didn’t know that her story too could exist in literature. 

When we only hear one continual narrative about a culture, it creates stereotypes and that is the only story we hear. The need for diverse books is to expand the single story and use stories as incubators to begin the work of cultivating empathy and allowing us to have hard, vulnerable conversations.

Below are two incredible lists of sources.

Made with Padlet

Race, Anti-Racist, Equality & Social Justice Resources for all Students, Librarians, Teachers, Families and Communities

Let us curate a bookshelf that amplifies diverse voices!

Jess Winter, 2020-21 Communications Project Management Chair