History of the Holland Junior Welfare League
Holland Junior Welfare League (HJWL) began in 1932. From developing a cookbook in the 60's to establishing Kids on the Block* in the 80's, HJWL has gone through many changes throughout the decades. Despite the changes, our mission has been steadfast, to improve the welfare of children.
1932: HJWL was founded by Betty Becker. There were 8 founding members. The first meeting was held on November 3rd, 1932. Nineteen women attended. They hosted 10 fundraiser events that first year including a charity football game, a white elephant and bake sale and several dances. Membership requirements were to be voted in, have a college degree or equivalent and to be no older than 30. During the first decade needy families could apply for aid from HJWL. Eye exams and glasses were also provided for many needy children. Layettes and OB kits were donated to many women and their new babies. Meetings were held on a weekly basis.
1940: HJWL was still providing layettes, glasses and OB kits. Our organization began providing "Christmas baskets" to needy families. In ought some new projects such as packing Red Cross kits for soldiers and knitting turtleneck sweaters for Dutch servicemen, the first children's play "Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates" was held as a fund raiser. The Claire Tre Major Production Company was hired to put this on at a cost of $150. Admission was $0.25 for children and $0.35 for adults -- a profit of $26 was made. Servicemen dances were held. Several members had to take "war leave" as they left town with their husbands. Members spent a lot of their time at meetings making crafts, etc. to be sold at upcoming fundraisers. In 1946, $1,500 was disbursed to Holland Hospital to go towards the purchase of several Hummel bassinette units.
1950: Claire Tre Major Productions were still being held each year until 1952. A wide variety of other fundraisers began including a style show, candy sale, plum pudding sales and bridge parties. HJWL began sponsoring "Kiddie Karnival" for all area children.
1953: HJWL was named one of the 250 Honor Clubs in the U.S. by the national magazine "Women's Home Companion".
1954: Members began presenting puppet shows at local elementary schools.
1955: $1,150 was disbursed to Holland Hospital for the pediatric playroom and $500 was given to Herrick Library.
1958: The by-laws read that "membership applicants must be between the ages for 21 and 35 and good workers." HJWL's first "Follies" were held. Members spent months producing and practicing for this variety show. The show was performed for several nights to very receptive audiences. A profit of $5,443.40 was made on this fundraiser. 1959: Brought on the first Candy Cane Ball (Silver Bells was the theme) and made a profit of $1,147.33. $5,000 was given to Herrick Library for furnishing the children room and is now in the reading carousel on the upper level.
1960: Kiddie Karnival, Candy Cane Ball, Fruitcake and Candy sales were still going on. HJWL was still providing layettes and eyeglasses.
1961: Work on a cookbook began.
1964: The cookbook Eet Smakelijk is introduced and proves to be a big success.
1969: "The Follies" returns.
1970: Disbursements increase from around $5,000 per year in the early '70s to over $15,000 per year in the late '70s. The Charity Ball, fruitcake sales, candy sales and Follies continue as fundraisers. Eet Smakelijk also continues to be a huge success.
1973: The Ottawa Area Center was the New Girls Project. Through this, the OAC Christmas Party and Spring Carnival were born.1976: A bicentennial edition of Eet Smakelijk is published with a copy presented to Susan Ford (President Gerald Ford's daughter) during Tulip Time.
1977: A record amount of cookbooks, 15,056, were sold in a 10 month period. 1978: The "Art Reaches Out" service project begins. League members visit local elementary schools and introduce children to famous artists and their work. 1979: HJWL's disbursements increase to over $25,000.
1982: "Kids on the Block" are introduced. League members visit local schools with these large, colorful puppets and talk with kids about issues that are currently facing youth.
1989: First "Festival of the Trees" fundraiser is held. 1990: Bowling fundraiser begins1993: Day Care books project begins.
1994: A new cookbook committee is formed. The Festival Preview Luncheon is added to the "Festival of the Trees" events.
1996: The Dawn to Dusk cookbook is introduced. It becomes a Tabasco Community Cookbook Award regional winner.
1997: 2,500 Dawn to Dusk cookbooks are sold on nationwide TV via the QVC home shopping channel. "Festival of the Trees" is renamed "Festival for the Children".
1999: The first "Speaker Night" fundraiser is held hosting Chicken Soup for the Soul author, Marci Shimoff. 2000-
2006 HJWL's largest fundraiser ‘Festival for the Trees’ was renamed ‘Kids at Heart Evening Event’. The preview luncheon was changed to ‘Kids at Heart Luncheon’. For a few years, the events were held on two consecutive days (back-to-back). 2006: The events were altered to not coincide within a weekend’s time, but rather, hosted at different times of the year. The evening event was moved to the spring and and the Kids at Heart Luncheon remained in November.
2007-2008: HJWL celebrates their 75th Anniversary.2008: The first 'BitterSweet' fundraiser takes place at Holland Area Arts Council.
2008: Eet Smakelijk Cookbook was reprinted.
2019: Spring for Kids Benefit event evolved from a traditionally Derby themed daytime event to a black-tie evening gala.
2020: In response to the worldwide pandemic, HJWL was forced to cancel their Spring for Kids Benefit. Later that year, with additional time to plan, they were able to pull off their first ever virtual Kids at Heart Fundraiser. The event was a huge success and in fact, they raised a record amount of money for any single event ever held by HJWL.
2021: With the pandemic still in full force, HJWL proactively planned and held their Spring for Kids Benefit virtually.
* Kids on the Block is an affiliate and limited licensee of The Kids on the Block Incorporated, Columbia, Maryland, USA.