The Junior League of Ocala was founded in 1989 by what was originally known as the Children's Service League (CSL).
CSL was formed in April of 1964 by twenty women to assist in the transportation of infants for adoption and to address the needs of children placed in foster homes. They were instrumental in establishing the Children’s Home Society’s office in Marion County.
From this humble beginning, CSL continued to evolve, staying true to its goal of providing love and meeting the tangible needs of children.
In 1989, CSL was formally admitted into the Association of Junior Leagues International and became known as the Junior League of Ocala.
Today, the Junior League of Ocala connects over 100 members to our community to act on tough issues and impact transformational change - continuing its focus on women and children in the Ocala community.
History of the Junior League of Ocala’s Community Impact
The Discovery Center
The Junior League of Ocala conceived and founded the Discovery Center. This was one of our first community impact projects after transitioning from the Children’s Service League to what we now know as the Junior League of Ocala.
The Discovery Center later opened in 1993, two years ahead of schedule after Junior League of Ocala members led the effort to launch the facility through fundraising and development of exhibits and programs. The Junior League of Ocala provided financial backing and members staffed the gift shop and ticket window through the “Discovery Hands” program.
This educational program began with the Children’s Service League in an attempt to teach kindergarteners the importance of washing, personal hygiene and disease control. Our members volunteered as Scrubby Bear, visited classrooms with programming materials and talked to the students about the importance of this issue. Scrubby Bear also made appearances in local parades.
Before there were recycling bins all over our county, the Junior League of Ocala brought a large trailer to all of our meetings, so members and others could turn in their recycling. Other efforts included initiatives to educate the public regarding what can be recycled and how, as well as what can be produced from recycled materials.
The Junior League of Ocala provided assistance to foster children being served by the Family Visitation Center during the Halloween, Christmas and Easter Holidays.
In the early years, league members “adopted” families with the aim of helping them learn to help themselves. They counseled them in ways to improve their situation (ie: through education, such as obtaining their GED), helped them obtain public housing, tutored children, directed families to government aid and gave them emotional and limited emergency financial assistance. The above discussed “Holiday Families Committee” provided referrals.
Child Abuse Puppetry
Through this community service project, which was held in conjunction with the Marion County Medical Society Auxillary, Junior League of Ocala members staged puppet shows in local elementary schools in an effort to teach children how to identify, resist and report physical and/or sexual abuse and neglect.
For many years, Junior League of Ocala members volunteered to monitor a playroom at the Rape Crisis/Spouse Abuse Center and set up positive and stimulating activities for children while their mothers received counseling. The goal was to raise children’s self-esteem and to teach them that the world contains caring and trustworthy adults.
The Black Stallion Literacy Project
This was one of the Junior League of Ocala’s longest running community service projects. From 2002 until 2010, The Black Stallion Literacy Project introduced over 2,500 Marion County children ANNUALLY to the joy of reading through the magic of horses and the popular Black Stallion books by Walter Farley.
The Junior League of Ocala, along with our partners, the Florida Thoroughbred Charities and the Public Education Foundation, made this project the LARGEST of its kind in the NATION!
Women’s Leadership Luncheon
From 1995-2001, the Junior League of Ocala, along with a local sponsor, brought nationally known motivational speakers to Ocala for this annual luncheon.
The Junior League of Ocala, in collaboration with Altrusa and the Ocala Art Group, brought this traveling art exhibit sponsored by Hallmark to the children of Marion County from 1994-1998.
Volunteer of the Year Awards Banquet
In collaboration with JCPenney and Volunteer Service Bureau, the Junior League of Ocala hosted a gala banquet to recognize, applaud and award leading volunteers from many organizations throughout the community.
Public Library Endowment
In 1999, Junior League of Ocala donated $10,000 to Marion County Public Libraries.
Tuscawilla Park Playground and Family Pavilion
In 2010, the Junior League of Ocala donated $70,000 to the City of Ocala and provided a large group of volunteers from our organization to assemble the universal playground and family picnic pavilion.
Munroe Regional Medical Center Children’s Emergency Department
Through our fundraising efforts, the Junior League of Ocala donated over $10,000 to MRMC for the completion of their Children’s Emergency Department.
"Jump with Jill" and Healthy Recipe Contest
In the Spring of 2011, the Junior League of Ocala alongside several community partners including Generation Fit, MRMC and the Ocala Hilton, hosted a large community education multi-part event to raise awareness among children and their families of the importance of healthy eating and regular physical activity.
Marion County public and private school children in 3rd – 5th grades were invited to participate in a healthy recipe contest. Over 125 recipes were submitted and three winners were chosen, one from each grade level. The three students were invited to make their recipe in front of a live audience for “Dishin’ It Out” program with Chef Randall.
Afterwards, the nationally recognized “Jump with Jill” performed a rock concert for the children and families of Marion County. The program is a live rock ‘n roll concert about nutrition.
2013-2014 League Year
The Junior League of Ocala supported over 10 different organizations throughout the 2013-2014 league year through our Done in a Day and Done in a Meeting projects.
At the end of the year, our members voted to provide extra financial support to three local organizations:
City of Ocala Recreation and Parks
In 2015, the Junior League of Ocala partnered with the City of Ocala Recreation and Parks Department to help develop playgrounds and pavilions for the children and families of Marion County. The three-year commitment promised $40,000 which went towards building a Family Picnic Pavilion at Scott Springs Park and the development of Marimere Neighborhood Park, among other projects. The money for these projects came in part from the Junior League of Ocala's annual fundraising event, Pints for Parks, which was held for the first time in 2016 and has raised more than $18,000 in its first two years.