By: Laura Collins
Women in the Washington, DC, metro area join the Junior League of Washington (JLW) for many different reasons. Some are looking for an organization to serve the community at large and to give back, while others are seeking to develop leadership skills and to learn how to manage a small group of motivated individuals. But overwhelmingly, the women who join the League are looking to form lifelong relationships. After all, we are relational beings that thrive with the support of our friends! Lauren Johnson and Ashley Hankins are two women who met through the League, and as they say, the rest is history. Johnson and Hankins took time to answer questions about how they met, how they connect outside of the League, and how their friendship has navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope Johnson and Hankin’s friendship is an inspiration evidencing the incredible things that happen when women come together.
How did you meet?
Johnson: We met through a mutual friend in the League who introduced us. We were all new members navigating the League for the first time and we became close bonding over the process. Without sounding cliché, we just “clicked” like we had known each other for years.
Hankins: One of our mutual friends invited some JLW members to dinner, and we hit it off! I think we bonded over our love of fashion. That was over five years ago, and we haven’t stopped talking since.
How do you connect outside of the League?
Johnson: After the first couple of League events (one or three, who knows it’s been six years!), we started hanging out socially. We both lived fairly close to each other in the city, so we would go out to dinner and drinks. Our now husbands also met and became instant friends! Now, a marriage, a baby, and a few moves later, we all go on trips together and spend time having each other over to our homes.
Hankins: We have the same interests! Whether we’re chatting about the latest Bravo shows over brunch or taking a workout class together, we both enjoy doing the same things.
How has your shared interest in voluntarism/philanthropy helped your friendship grow?
Johnson and Hankins: We think our most shared interest was getting people engaged and interested in voluntarism. We were on the same JLW committee two years in a row, the first was the New Member Committee and second was Development & Training. Our passion was built around not only being volunteers in the community, but also getting others excited to do the same so that there will be more philanthropic women in the community.
What advice do you have for members looking to find meaningful friendships in the League?
Johnson: Be open to meeting lots of people, go to social events, and spark conversation. You won’t necessarily bond with everyone because the League is full of all different types of people, which is awesome. But, the more people you meet and interact with, you will find the women that you can build a strong friendship with.
Hankins: Try to get involved with JLW as much as you can. I’ve met so many great women during social time before a Development & Training event or through my committee placement. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there either because you never know who you’ll meet.
How have you stayed connected during the era of COVID?
Johnson: COVID was rough, but the one redeeming factor was that we lived only two blocks away from each other and were able to go on walks, get takeout, and ride the wave together. There were a few months when we were both not in the city, but we would Facetime and text constantly.
Hankins: During 2020, when a lot of things were shut down, we got into the habit of grabbing a coffee and going for walks around DC. It was nice to catch up in person while also being safe outside.
What are you most excited about for this League year?
Johnson: Since I’m on the Literacy Events Planning Committee, one of our major events, the National Book Festival, already happened. I was really excited for it because it’s one of my favorite things that the League does. I’m also looking forward to having events and meetings in person. I miss seeing people and connecting!
Hankins: I’m excited that things are starting to open up and we’re able to do some events in-person. While I appreciate the flexibility of Zoom, I’ve really missed going to JLW Headquarters and seeing people in real life.