Heritage

Sustainers Sustaining New Orleans
In May 1974, Lagniappe Magazine featured JLNO’s joint Sustainers of the Year — it’s Founding Ladies — as part of the League’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. The cover of this 1974 Lagniappe edition pictures these amazing women who sparked the Junior League of New Orleans’ 95 year legacy. Photo provided by: JLNO Archives.

 


 

The Junior League of New Orleans presents its Sustainer of the Year Award to a Sustaining member who exemplifies the organization’s educational and charitable mission. The recipient has a demonstrated commitment to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through her commendable action and leadership. Nominations for the award come from the Sustaining and Active membership, and a committee reviews nominations and letters of support to determine the award.

 


 

In May of 1958, Gladys Eustis Reily (Mrs. James W. Reily) became the first recipient of JLNO’s Sustainer of the Year Award (SOY). According to an archived Lagniappe article, she “has taken her League volunteer training, continued it and expanded it to become an outstanding volunteer worker for the betterment of the Community.” A little research into Mrs. Reily’s League background reveals she was a member in 1925, JLNO’s second year. She also served two successive terms as the League’s President.

Since the SOY Award was created, there have been 62 recipients, many of whom served as JLNO President and all of whom took the training they received as members of this organization out into the Greater New Orleans area and beyond.

The 2018 SOY recipient was Melanee Usdin. When asked for her message to Actives approaching Sustainer status, she says, “Congratulations! You are about to graduate from a high-level course in non-profit training with an advanced degree in board governance. While you were making new friends and networking with like-minded women, you were also learning best practices, consensus building, how to run an effective meeting and how to build a strong board. Many of us didn’t realize how much we had learned until after we had ‘graduated’ from JLNO and joined other boards.”

This is a belief echoed across the decades. In past Lagniappe articles which highlight these accomplished SOY women, ranging from 1958 through today, each woman attributes her success as a volunteer and leader in the community to the training received as a Junior League member.

Sustainer and Past President (2017-18) Kristen Koppel says, “When you [become a] Sustainer, you quickly realize the aspects of the League that were most important to you, and these things stay important. You look for ways to incorporate the League into the community.” She goes on to say that the League prepares you as a Sustainer to continue talking about the issues in the community and how to tackle them.

Kristen also says that each SOY recipient and every Sustainer she reached out to when she was President gave assistance without reserve. “They were always available for counsel and were there to help with the warmest welcome. I always knew I had their support.”

To these women, Kristen says, “Thank you! Thank you for your work in the community, for attributing your success to the League. You are change makers, and you are raising awareness. You are role models to our members and the community. I am so proud of you.”

Melanee also reiterates the influence and support past JLNO leaders have had on the current membership.

“SOY recipients and past-presidents were inspirational role models,” she says.

With a League as large as JLNO, provisionals, sustainers and actives may not all have a chance to interact. The provisionals and the actives are aware of those sustainers who continue to work with the League and in the community, though.

“Some [of these women] played a key role in my training,” says Melanee. “But so many I admire simply for being effective, talented, lovely people. Two ladies who were especially inspiring when I was a new member were Lucille Andrus and Fran Villere. Others, closer to my age, were part of a posse of trained volunteers who worked together as a team then and now.”

That original group of trained JLNO members were its founders. The 10 women who came together to create the Junior League of New Orleans in 1924 were trailblazers in a time when women were often limited in how they could impact their community — simply because they were women.

The Founders of JLNO were honored as the Sustainers of the Year Award winners in 1974 as part of the League’s 50th Anniversary Celebration.

“During this Fiftieth Anniversary celebration, it is with great pride and humble gratitude that the members of the Junior League of New Orleans, Inc. pay tribute to Mittie Clark Anderson, Marjorie Bobb Clarke, Elise Mason-Smith Howard, Ruth Hobson Maginnis, Laura Hall Monrose, and Veva Penick Miller Wright, and honor the memory of Elizabeth Hill Penick, Josephine Witherspoon Rogers, and Delphine Charles Williams,” wrote Katherine Gage, Lagniappe Staff Writer (Lagniappe, May 1974).

These pioneers of League voluntarism in New Orleans partnered with the Child Welfare Association, the New Orleans Day Nursery (which became a part of Kingsley House) and the YWCA to build a foundation upon which JLNO’s members stand today. Kristen says it is a testament to the League that 95 years later, what these women set out to do is still relevant and impactful.

“I encourage all women interested in voluntarism to consider the Junior League because it is unique in its emphasis on training,” says Melanee. “JLNO’s stated mission is not only to improve the community, but also — and perhaps more importantly — to do so by training its members for service on other boards and leadership positions in the community. It’s a superb education, and you’ll have a lot of fun along the way.”

As JLNO celebrates 95 years of service in the Greater New Orleans Area, it wishes to honor its Founders and each Sustainer of the Year whose commitment to the wellbeing and empowerment of women in this community is beyond compare.

 


 

Thank you to all past contributors to Lagniappe Magazine who highlighted a Sustainer of the Year – your articles assisted in the research for this Heritage piece.

 


 

Past Sustainers of the Year

2018    Melanee Gaudin Usdin
2017    Margaret “Margo” Sanders Phelps
2016    Ann Thorpe Thompson
2015    Peggy LeCorgne Laborde
2014    Claire Ferrier Stahel
2013    Harriet “Muffin” Balart
2012    Margaret Garrett Wall
2011    Julie Livaudais George
2010    Janet White Bean
2009    Beverly Reese Church
2008    Susan Read Johnson
2007    Alice Wright
2006    Ruthie Frierson
2005    Margie Villere
2004    Barbara Gott Bush
2003    Cynthia Rainold Hammond
2002    Flora Fenner French
2001    Susan Jones Gundlach
2001    Eugenie Jones Huger
2000    Patricia Crane Mason
1999    Elizabeth Shaw Nalty
1998    Jean Flower Tompkins
1997    Georgia Monsted Simmons
1996    Ann Mahorner
1995    Joan Walet Hartson
1994    Frances Gable Villere
1993    Sally Upham Hays
1992    Marjorie Leverich Moran
1991    Beth Stocker Cary
1990    Anne McDonald Milling
1989    Gladys Gay LeBreton
1988    Kathryn Eshleman Rapier
1987    Adelaide Wisdom Benjamin
1986    Sybil Muths Favrot
1985    Florance Scott Conway
1984    Lynne Hecht Farwell
1983    Virginia McConnell Walker
1982    Diana Monroe Lewis
1981    Molly Ferrell Reily
1980    Catherine Bensabat Schneider
1979    Bruce Witherspoon Rafferty
1978    Nell Winston Saussy
1977    Katherine Foster Duncan
1976    Anne Kock Montgomery
1975    Margot Bennet Logan
1974    The Founding Members
1973    Charolotte Hillyer Dupuy
1972    Helen Martin Shaw
1971    Shingo Dameron Manard
1970    Virginia Logan Halsey
1969    Susan Buck Mayer
1968    Rosa Freeman Keller
1967    Isabel McMain Ewing
1966    Charlotte Felder Favrot
1965    Frances Kittredge Burke
1964    Jane Pharr Gage
1963    Peggy Weaver Waechter
1962    Althea Wuerpel Rainold
1961    Nancy Reeves Dreux
1960    Murray Pearcy Hurley
1959    Eleonor Luzenberg Pratt
1958    Gladys Eustis Reily

 


 

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