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Junior League of Harlingen: A Tradition of Community Service through Empowerment

(This article was written by Beth Marie Cantu and appeared in the May 2024 issue of Explore Harlingen Magazine.)


Photo courtesy of Heather Huerta.

Mrs. H.L. Wade, a local woman with a vision of selflessly serving the community, founded the Service League of Harlingen in 1947. Eventually, the all-female organization was chartered into the Association of Junior Leagues, an international group that bands together the different service leagues of women throughout the world and changed its name to the Junior League of Harlingen (JLH). In its early years, JLH’s members embarked on a journey of community enrichment, laying the foundation for their enduring tradition of service, which remains steadfast today.

 

Leading the charge is Amanda Lucio, the current president (2023-2024), who was inspired by the transformative impact of past League members in her life. Under her guidance, the JLH marches forward, honoring its rich legacy while embracing innovation and inclusivity, a true labor of love. Amanda emphasizes, “All of our members are volunteers; none of our members have a payroll.”


Photo courtesy of Junior League of Harlingen.

And though Amanda is the one at the helm, she emphasizes that it is the members who truly navigate JLH toward success. “It’s important to note that none of our projects can be carried out without our extremely dedicated members. They are truly the backbone of what makes the Junior League of Harlingen what it is today.”

 

JLH’s commitment to the community is exemplified through a variety of events aimed at fostering positive change. Events, such as the Women’s EmpowHERment Institute, Girls’ Education and Mentoring Series (GEMS), and the Teen Leadership Conference (TLC) are focused on addressing the specific needs of women of all ages within the community. Additionally, with projects such as the annual KidFit Fun Run and Festival, JLH extends its reach to ensure that young individuals of all genders are impacted by their mission of promoting holistic well-being and self-improvement. 


Photo courtesy of Junior League of Harlingen/Abel Riojas Photography.

At the heart of JLH’s endeavors is collaboration with other institutions. JLH has joined forces with local organizations, such as the Loaves & Fishes Food Bank and the Harlingen Public Library to extend their influence beyond traditional boundaries. Additionally, JLH is partnering with United Way of Northern Cameron County for a new event called “Onboard,” a free, half-day workshop open to men and women who want to build the skills necessary to be a successful board member for area nonprofit organizations.

 

JLH places a strong emphasis not only on community impact but also on member development. Amanda highlights this dual focus, stating, "Besides the fact that we’re doing community impact events, it’s important to note that we also focus on our member development." JLH prioritizes providing professional development opportunities for its members regularly. By equipping members with valuable skills and experiences, JLH empowers them to make meaningful contributions in their own lives, while also giving back to their community—a dual approach that underscores JLH’s comprehensive commitment to service and empowerment. 


Photo courtesy of Junior League of Harlingen.

However, the path to fulfilling JLH’s mission is not without its challenges. Amanda notes that the largest struggle is financial. “Everything we do costs money. To put on these community impact events [and] projects, we must have fundraisers.” In addition to fundraisers, donations and sponsorships serve as vital sources of funding for the projects spearheaded by JLH.

 

But, despite these obstacles, JLH remains dedicated to its commitment to a stronger, more vibrant community. JLH welcomes women who are eager to contribute to its mission of service and empowerment. If you or someone you know is interested in getting involved, you can reach out to the Junior League of Harlingen on their website, social media accounts, or by emailing info@jlharlingen.org.

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