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Cypress-Woodlands Junior Forum members are ready for their year of service

February 12, 2019 GMT

A group of women in The Woodlands and Cypress areas, dedicated to making a difference in the lives of children, elderly and disabled adults, have entered this year ready to serve. The Cypress-Woodlands Junior Forum is a nonprofit assistance organization that has been partnering with local service programs for almost 40 years.

Junior Forum chapter President-elect Renee Atkinson compared the organization to Junior League or National Charity League, but for women who are a bit older or whose kids have gone off to college.

“We have people from all walks of life: people who were professionals, people who are housewives, people who’ve just relocated to the area and are looking to get involved,” Atkinson said.

The organization has about 175 active members, and another 175 people who are “sustaining” members, meaning they’ve been volunteering for many years and may not be as active anymore. They’re the second-largest chapter in Texas behind Houston.

Each active member is required to log at least 50 service hours per year. The group normally racks up between 25,000 and 30,000 collective service hours yearly, which they serve through various programs and partner organizations.

They have a few programs that are supported solely by their own members. One is a program for senior citizens where the ladies provide lunch, entertainment — usually bingo — and fellowship monthly at four different church locations.

“These seniors are so grateful to have an activity, to be catered on and we take the time to sit down at the table and talk with them,” Atkinson said. “Having had an elderly mother who was in that situation at one time, it really does make a difference to them.”

Another program is the group’s BookSmart program, where members visit Title 1 schools and present a play for second-grade students. They recently received a $2,500 grant for this program from the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, an organization based in Washington, D.C.

They continue encouraging students to love education by giving out $1,000 scholarships from an endowed fund to high school seniors who excel in school and serve their community. Students are selected from six area school districts: Conroe, Klein, Magnolia, Spring, Tomball and Cypress-Fairbanks.

In addition, the group volunteers with other area organizations and nonprofits: at food pantries, resale shops and immunization clinics.

Barb Prasad, the organization’s vice president of public relations, said that each program comes down to serving others.

“We have a heart for service; it’s a joy of service,” Prasad said.

Atkinson said she agreed, mentioning the times when the ladies donate casseroles or bingo prizes from their own resources.

“It’s an obvious reward, providing a service for people who wouldn’t otherwise have that opportunity,” Atkinson said. “There’s a real joy of giving, people like giving their time and resources and support to these programs.”

As an added bonus, when the ladies show up to serve at the various programs, they get to do it together.

“You work side by side with each other, they know your heart and you know their heart. It’s like a big sorority for older ladies,” Atkinson said with a laugh.

While there might be a great sense of community, Atkinson said their biggest challenge is getting people to know who the group is and what they do.

So, the organization’s leaders are attempting to re-brand themselves to let community members know that they’re active by re-vamping their logo, website and service uniforms. Another way they want to distinguish themselves this year is by starting a signature program. Although nothing is final yet, that program could be some sort of literacy venture for children, she added.

“We’d like to establish some sort of signature event that we become known for, to get our names out there so people understand we’re here,” Atkinson said.