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San Angelo Lifestyles

Seven Decades of Dedication

Aug 29, 2019 05:42PM
written by becca nelson sankey | photos by becca nelson sankey and contributed by 
the junior league of san angelo 


When Berkeley Puckitt moved to San Angelo eight years ago, she was looking for an organization that would teach her about the city, keep her involved in volunteering, build leadership skills, and help her meet new people. After several residents suggested she look into the Junior League of San Angelo, Puckitt and her sister-in-law, Marcie Puckitt, attended a meet and greet. 


 


“We both fell in love with it,” Puckitt said. “I became president (for 2018-2019), and she’ll be president the following year, so we’ve been able to do this journey together.”


The Junior League was formally organized in 1946 and became a member of the Association of Junior Leagues America, Inc. in 1957. Women and children have been the organization’s main focus and the beneficiaries of its services and projects. 


“The Junior League pinpoints a problem in the community, then finds a partnership to develop a solution; we don’t just do it by ourselves,” Puckitt said. “We launch the program and then, depending on how long it takes to get the program off the ground, depending on when it’s ready to be sustained by itself or through another organization, then we’ll pass it off.”


 

“The Junior League pinpoints a problem in the community, then finds a partnership to develop a solution; we don’t just do it by ourselves.” -Berkeley Puckitt



Food 2 Kids, for example, was launched upon the discovery that economically disadvantaged elementary school students were going hungry when they weren’t in school. The Junior League recruited the Concho Valley Food Bank and San Angelo Independent School District to help pack and distribute bags of healthy food to sustain children throughout the weekends. “The food bank was (eventually) able to take on the program, and at that point we were able to find a new project and a new need in San Angelo,” Puckitt said. “We still have a hand in Food 2 Kids, but it’s not solely what we do anymore.”


Its current projects include Done-in-a-Day, jobs that meet a specific need and can be completed in one day; Student Closet, which provides clothing to economically disadvantaged children; Kids in the Kitchen, a Junior League-wide initiative that addresses childhood obesity and poor nutrition in communities; and the Children’s Literacy Project, which promotes reading with its Little Library, a mobile library that offers free books at various community events; it has given out more than 4,000 books since its inception.





“We have different committees all of our members are appointed to, so you get a placement survey and you can indicate what you’re passionate about, whether it’s children’s literacy or the (local) soup kitchen,” Puckitt explained of League members. “We give the members an opportunity to express what they want to be a part of, and then we appoint them to the committees.”


As the League’s current president, Puckitt has a hand in everything, she said, but Student Closet has a special place in her heart. “It’s not used clothes (the children receive); it’s something they can be very happy about.”


As part of Student Closet, “we did a partnership with House of Faith for coats this winter called Warmth for the Winter and went to one of the low-income schools,” she said. “I got to help pass out these coats to all these students; I think it was 256 coats in one afternoon. This little girl ran up to me and hugged my leg and said, ‘Thank you. I won’t be cold at school tomorrow.’ It makes you cry because you know you were able to make a difference not only for that child but for his or her parents.”


 

“Student Closet has a special place in my heart. It’s not used clothes (the children receive); it’s something they can be very happy about.” -Berkeley Puckitt 


Student Closet also provides clothing to Child Protective Services’ Rainbow Room, where children in CPS custody can select new or very gently used clothing. “Each month at our general membership meetings we have a speaker,” Puckitt said. “I try to bring somebody who is relevant to what we’re doing that month. We had talked to the Rainbow Room, and they had asked for donations of diapers and clothes. The Rainbow Room director spoke at the meeting and brought a pair of shoes that had holes in the toes and shorts that had rips in it. She said these were the clothes a 4-year-old taken into CPS custody was wearing at daycare. She turned in a request, and in less than 12 hours she got new clothes and everything she needed for that child.”


When the Rainbow Room director relayed the story to the Junior League’s members, “there was not a dry eye in the house,” Puckitt said.


 

“I got to help pass out these coats to all these students; I think it was 256 coats in one afternoon. -Berkeley Puckitt



As of April, a whopping 750 requests had been made to the Junior League’s Student Closet since January 2019. “That’s been the huge need in the Concho Valley to provide this service,” Puckitt said. “We are able to make a difference in partnering with all these different organizations. We have a hand in most of these organizations in town as a catalyst for true change.”


 


Past Junior League projects include Well Baby Clinic (1957), Boys Ranch (1958), Volunteers in Public Schools (1981), Hospice of San Angelo (1984), Sonrisas Therapeutic Riding (1984), CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates (1988), Boys and Girls Club (1991), Adult Day Care (1991), Hope House (1994), Voice for Victims (1994), and Kids Kingdom playground (2003). To support its service initiatives, a variety of fundraisers are held throughout the year, the largest of which is the Western Dance...typically held in late January. This year’s dance saw 350 people and raised approximately $7,000, Puckitt said.



 

The largest fundraiser is the Western Dance...typically held in late January. This year’s dance saw 350 people and raised approximately $7,000.



Other events with which the Junior League name has become synonymous include Touch a Truck, which Puckitt called, “our thank you back to the community.”


Held at the end of the League’s year in April, the event is free and open to the public and allows children the opportunity to see and sit in local firetrucks, police cars, farming vehicles and more. “We have a snow cone stand come and things that you can pay for yourself (in terms of snacks), but for the most part everything is free,” Puckitt said, adding that last year’s event brought in about 2,000 people.


Community volunteers often are needed for the Junior League’s events, Puckitt said, but people also may contribute to its service initiatives by donating; 100 percent of donations directly benefit the League’s operations and projects. 



 

Touch a Truck allows children the opportunity to see and sit in local firetrucks, police cars, farming vehicles and more.



Women 23 to 40 years old are also eligible for membership. The Junior League of San Angelo has 102 active and provisional members and 195 sustaining members. “We have opportunities at all times, so all members of the League can find something that fits their lives and the times they can volunteer,” Puckitt said.


The League’s recruitment period is in March and April. “We take 35 members,” Puckitt said. “If we have more than 35 apply, we’ll go through a selection process. Our alumni will help us vet through those applications and see why people want to be members, and what values and attributes they would be able to add to the League.”


It’s been nearly a decade since Puckitt took the leap herself. “Two years ago I was asked if I wanted to become president elect,” Puckitt said. “I had just had my first child. I thought I was too young, but I said, ‘Let me prayerfully consider it and talk to my husband.’ He said, ‘If they think you can do it, I think you can do it.’”



 

“You can work full time, have two little kids and join the Junior League and be president if you want to.” -Berkeley Puckitt 

Presidency of the League is a two-year commitment, Puckitt said, and two weeks after accepting the position, she discovered she was expecting again. “You can work full time, have two little kids and join the Junior League and be president if you want to,” Puckitt said with a laugh. “It’s a little crazy, but you can do it.” †


For more information on the Junior League, its membership and volunteer opportunities, or to donate, visit: www.sajuniorleague.com or call 325-655-9866

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