The new, 48,000-square-foot headquarters of the Junior League of Austin, the fifth-largest Junior League in the world, opened on Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony presided over by multiple community leaders, many of whom are current or former Junior League members themselves. With this new building, called the Community Impact Center, the nonprofit, leadership-training organization, most famous for community programs like Coats for Kids and A Christmas Affair, started a new chapter in its 85-year history.
The two-story building was constructed on the on Loop 360 on Bluffstone. Construction began in January 2018, 10 years after the property was purchased, and was completed in late summer of 2019. In addition to office space, it offers multiple meeting rooms and work spaces for the organization, and event space available for rent to the community. Laura Wolf, CEO of Casa of Travis County and a 28-year Junior League member said, “This league has grown significantly in the last decade, and I’m really proud of that.”
Previously the Junior League operated out of a shopping center it owned on Parkcrest in Northwest Austin. Purchased in 1983, that facility offered meeting and storage space for Junior League business, but it wasn’t enough to house its growing programs and membership. “It was inefficient because you were constantly going upstairs and downstairs, in a number of tiny rooms,” said Lia Truitt, a member who had served on the A Christmas Affair team. “Moving days were crazy.”
The new facility will provide ample meeting and storage space for its 2,500 members and multiple events and programs, but also space for impromptu meetings. “Even just while we’ve been moving in, I’ve seen a couple of people sitting in one area, catching up on plans, another couple sitting over there, making notes,” said current Junior League president Carrie Semple. “We never had space for that at the previous place.”
At a time when most nonprofits are struggling to maintain their operating budgets and programs, Junior League of Austin is expanding. Even during construction, which Semple says was a demanding undertaking in itself, Junior League launched new initiatives, like a program to distribute more than 1,000 free, new shoes to elementary school kids. Each year, the Junior League partners with about 30 nonprofits, where its members volunteer over 35,000 hours and commit more than $650,000 in grants.
Wolf credits that growth to an increasingly civic-minded Austin. “I think it speaks to the culture of Austin and, in the case of the Junior League, Austin women who really want to make a difference, and find a way where they can learn to lead to improve out in the community,” she said. It also helps, she says, that the Junior League has a history of being adaptable to its membership, 80 percent of which works outside the home. “We say, Work gloves, not white gloves,'” said Semple.
NOTE: A version of this article also appears in the October 21, 2019, issue of the Austin America-Statesman.