The Junior League of Tulsa (JLT) identifies critical and emerging unmet needs in the community each year and develops programs to fill those gaps. Through leadership, volunteer training, and fundraising, JLT works to make each project self-supporting within three years. Once a new program has been launched and turned over to its own management, JLT turns its attention to other critical issues. This method makes JLT unique among Tulsa organizations.
The legacy of JLT in Tulsa can be seen in several long-standing local institutions, and the League continues to germinate projects and develop them into self-sustaining endeavors.
Children’s Medical Center
In October 1926, JLT opened the Convalescent Home for Crippled Children in a small frame house near 5th and Cincinnati. The purpose of the facility was to provide assistance to children with crippling conditions, such as polio and rheumatic fever, through the recovery and rehabilitation process. Two years later, the facility was relocated to a cottage at 1448 South Lewis Avenue to accommodate the program’s expansion.
After World War II, JLT began the process to turn the facility over to a community board. The transition was complete in 1951 and the name was changed to Children’s Medical Center. In 1994, it became part of the Hillcrest HealthCare System. Six years later, the Children’s Medical Center closed its facility at 5300 East Skelly Drive, where it had been housed since 1975, and relocated its juvenile medical services to Hillcrest Medical Center. It is estimated that, in the years prior to its integration into Hillcrest, the Children’s Medical Center provided care to over 14,000 children from across Oklahoma annually.
Leadership Tulsa was founded in 1973 as a joint project of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce and JLT with the purpose of building community leaders. Each year, its flagship program develops over one hundred participants with the knowledge, skills and connections needed for effective community service and leadership. It is currently managed by its own board.
Tulsa International Mayfest
In 1973, JLT chose to celebrate its 50 years of service in Tulsa by making a gift to the community. Along with the City of Tulsa and the Tulsa Philharmonic, which also celebrated major milestones the same year (75 years and 25 years, respectively), JLT co-sponsored an outdoor arts festival to bring performing and visual arts to the Tulsa area.
Originally called “Jubilee 73,” the event is known today as Tulsa International Mayfest. Production of the event was turned over to Downtown Tulsa Unlimited and the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa in 1974. Following DTU’s dissolution, Mayfest became an independent event produced in cooperation with the Arts & Humanities Council in 2009.
Mayfest’s outdoor arts and crafts show, live music, fair food, and ethnic cuisine, as well as its juried art competitions, attract more than 300,000 people each year.
Oxley Nature Center
Part of Tulsa’s Mohawk Park since 1979, the Oxley Nature Center offers visitors an interactive learning center, nine miles of trails, student programs, nature hikes, and a volunteer naturalist training program. In April 1977, JLT signed on to develop a volunteer program for the 800-acre facility. The League also agreed to provide partial support for the naturalist to be hired by the center.
Tulsa Ronald McDonald House
In 1985, JLT joined forces with Phyllis Dotson to explore the possibility of bringing a Ronald McDonald House to Tulsa. After working as a nurse caring for seriously ill children and then losing her own son to cancer, Dotson sought to establish a place in Tulsa where families of hospitalized children could find comfort. JLT took the lead the following year by initiating a feasibility study and creating a 5-year task force. In 1990, JLT was one of the kickstarters of the successful campaign to raise $2 million to build and endow the facility. The doors opened on October 4, 1991.
The Tulsa Ronald McDonald House accommodates up to 24 families each night. As of 2016, it has hosted families from 67 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties, 42 U.S. states, and eight foreign countries.
The Future: Intergalactic Spaceport & Emporium and After-School Writing & Tutoring Center
JLT is currently collaborating with the Tulsa City-County Library to open an After-School Writing & Tutoring Center. The Intergalactic Spaceport & Emporium is a retail outlet, and sales from the retail space and associated website will help fund the tutoring center.
The “retail-plus-tutoring” concept is modeled after 826 Valencia, a San Francisco-based non-profit dedicated to improving the writing skills of under-resourced students, age 6-18.
Currently, JLT has two committees working with TCCL on this project: the After-School Homework Club and the Social Venture Committee. Homework Club committee members provide individual and small group tutoring to students in 3rd through 8th grade through TCCL’s existent tutoring program, available at twelve library locations. The Social Venture Committee is assisting TCCL with the development and strategic planning for the combined retail and learning center.
JLT consistently meets its goal to develop the potential of women and improve communities in northeastern Oklahoma. Each year, JLT contributes over $200,000 and 55,000 hours of volunteer time to community projects. The results of these efforts can be seen all across Green Country in the on-going, independent programs that continue to serve the Tulsa area after being launched and nurtured by JLT.