Advocacy and the public affairs committee has played an important role in shaping past community projects and steering the direction our League has gone. Two Councils in addition to NYSPAC have had a powerful impact on our community advocacy role. Established in 1971, the Council of the Junior Leagues of Westchester (CJLW- includes Bronxville, Pelham, JL on the Sound, JL on Hudson JL of Central Westchester and the JLNW) successfully collaborated for 26 years on co-sponsoring workshops, seminars, panel discussions and community projects to raise public awareness on issues such as:
- Foster care
- Graduated drivers’ licensing
- Women’s health issues
- Background checks for school district employees
- Domestic violence
- Reform in state government
- Criminal justice
- Child abuse and neglect
- Childcare training
Leadership from our League and support of the Council led to the founding of Serenity House, a halfway house for women alcoholics in 1974, development of the SciencePort “hands-on” Children’s Museum from 1988 – 1994 and the 1988 Position Statement on Homelessness to name a few. In 1997 the CJLW was dissolved as a duplication of Westchester presidents meetings.
The second council, the Community Advisory Council (CAC) was established in 1987 and continues to exist today as a vital source for understanding the needs of the community. The CAC in conjunction with a Public Affairs Committee consisting of a chair and 2 members actively researched such topics as breast cancer and domestic violence in the mid 90’s. The Public Affairs committee was able to establish important contacts with prominent Westchester government leaders increasing our networking capabilities and ability to create community projects county wide. The Silent Witness project of 1995 was adopted as a NYSPAC issue led by the JLNW. Our advocacy on domestic violence led to the JLNW becoming the NYS coordinator for a candlelight Silent Witness vigil in NYC and a march in Washington, DC in October , 1997.
In addition, our Public Affairs committee sponsored Westchester Legislative breakfasts in ’98 and ’99 to discuss advocacy issues. Such legislative breakfasts gave Westchester Junior Leagues an opportunity to directly lobby our county legislators on issues important to our leagues. We are hoping to reestablish these legislative breakfasts in the future as a form of ongoing advocacy by local Westchester leagues.