Junior League leader works to empower local women through volunteerism

100 years ago, women in the United States earned the right to vote — and from there, gained the power to create real and effective change within their communities and the rest of the country. And, as it turns out, our Daytonian of the Week is very familiar with the power that women possess to incite change in their communities.

Meet Lindsay Maxam, the president of the Junior League of Dayton, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing the potential of women through volunteerism that works to improve the Dayton community. Currently, Maxam and her organization are working to promote literacy and education in the area, developing several projects with local educators and schools in the area to ensure that each student in the Miami Valley is given the resources that they need to be successful.

Fittingly, the Junior League of Dayton is also celebrating its 100th year in 2020, and so in honor of this milestone, we are getting to know Maxam, the organization’s current president. In her own words, Maxam tells us more about the importance of empowering women in the Miami Valley.

Tell us about your background. What has led you to this point in your career/volunteering work?

I grew up in Northern Kentucky and spent eight years in the South for school. I did the opposite of what most people do and moved from the beach in Georgia to Dayton in 2012. I initially hated Dayton, but when I gave it a real chance, I quickly fell in love with the city, the people and the culture. I currently live in Kettering with my husband and two dogs Biscuit and Via. One of the first things I did was join the Junior League of Dayton. My parents taught me at a very young age that it is your responsibility to make your community a better place, so volunteering has always been a priority in my life, and The Junior League of Dayton has allowed me to learn about Dayton and build community.

Explain your current role at the Junior League of Dayton and how you contribute to the community.

I currently serve as the president and am charged with leading our 250-plus members in promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women, and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Over the years, the focus of the League has shifted to be responsive to community needs. Currently, our focus is on promoting literacy with a focus on children. Through our Learn Grown Explore programming and partnerships with other non-profits like the Dayton Metro Library, YWCA and Project Read, we are able to have an impact on our youngest community members.

Credit: Lindsay Maxam

Credit: Lindsay Maxam

How do you work to empower women in the community?

The Junior League of Dayton of today is not your grandmother’s Junior League. Our membership demographics have changed over the years, and we not only volunteer, but also provide development opportunities for our members including past topics such as grant writing, non-profit leadership and fundraising.

In February, we hosted Junior Leagues from across the state and the region for a one-day conference to share our community impacts and learn more about leadership topics. We also partnered with a local Girl Scout troop on one of their projects because it is important for young girls to see strong women leaders.

What does it mean to you to be able to do the work that you’re doing with the Junior League of Dayton?

I feel lucky to be able to do the work that we are doing, and I feel even luckier to be chosen to lead this organization. The Legacy of the Junior League of Dayton touches all corners of our community. We recently celebrated our 100-year anniversary, and I am in awe of the work we have accomplished as a group of dedicated community volunteers. From our inception with 10 members, we stretched half the gauze needed for Miami Valley Hospital in 1920 and assisted with the opening of the Dayton Art Institute. We continued our work with both of those organizations and started the Occupational Therapy Program at Miami Valley Hospital and what now has become Art Ball at the Dayton Art Institute. We have advocated for the voiceless in a myriad of projects including a large presence with the Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program.

The work we do is a constant reminder of the power of women and what can happen with a single idea.

How has your work with the Junior League of Dayton changed since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States?

One of the greater strengths we have as women leaders is adaptability. Traditionally, we spent time each week at the Northwest branch of the Dayton Metro Library with our Learn Grow Explore initiative that paired with a free lunch option. Because we were not able to safely bring together the children and our volunteers, we switched to virtual opportunities through our Facebook twice a week for reading and learning activities. All of the videos are saved to our library, and we hope these serve as a resource to working parents who will be trying to facilitate virtual learning at home this fall.

We are also a highly relational group of leaders so it has been challenging for all us to not be in the same room together. We had planned on creating virtual meetings as an option for all of our events as a diversity and inclusion initiative, but the pandemic certainly moved that along quickly. We are now using Zoom for a majority of our meetings, which has provided us with unique opportunities in having more of our members to be able to join from the safety of their homes.

Thinking back on your time at the Junior League of Dayton, do any philanthropic projects stand out to you? Are there any times in which you felt especially proud of the work you’ve done for the community?

My favorite event is our annual rummage sale called Vintage in the Valley. While it is traditionally held in the fall, we are shifting it to the spring this year. Our members donate items, and we invite the community to come shop for great bargains and finds. At the end of the day, we invite community partners to come shopping for free to take as many items would be helpful to their organizations and their clients so we are able to not only raise money for our organization to put into our outreach and programming, but also help other local non-profits and family. It is a great feat to pull off and requires nearly our entire organization, but it very clearly makes a great impact.

Credit: Lindsay Maxam

Credit: Lindsay Maxam

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