Why I Serve: Bringing Smiles

My colleague, friends and family have long since accepted that many nights I have a “Junior League thing”—especially when they see the spark that the Junior League of Washington (JLW) has added to my life since moving to D.C. nearly 8 years ago. Raised by a mother who brings new meaning to the term ‘do gooder’, a grandmother who (even into her 80s) volunteers at the town library, and later dozens of teachers at my prep school who ignited a passion for education and service in me, the JLW was the perfect organization for me to join.

Simply put, I volunteer because I love smiles. I love to smile, love to see others smile, and love to make people smile—especially those who maybe do not have as many things about which to ‘smile’. This year, I’ve had the pure pleasure of serving as the JLW’s Community Affairs Council and in that role, I’ve had the chance to be a bit of a smile fairy.

In September, over 550 of you smiled to the over 200,000 National Book Festival goers as they stood in line to meet their favorite authors, played in the PBS Kids tent, or rocked out to one of the story time bands in the Target Family Pavilion.

JLW Volunteers at the National Book Fest

Since June 2012, through joint-leadership by the Community Affairs Council and Ways and Means Council, JLW’s Resolution Read 100,000 books project has distributed nearly 50,000 books to D.C. area kids – resulting in way more than 50,000 smiles.

This fall, the Community Affairs Council, via the Targeted Grants and Volunteer Resources Committee, gave out three new grants to D.C. non-profits working to make illiteracy an issue of the past – Jubilee Jumpstart, Little Lights Urban Ministry, and Hope House, DC – resulting in many, many more smiles.

On Saturday, March 2, the Community Event Planning Committee is hosting another ‘smile-maker’ event – the free Annual Kids in the Kitchen children’s health, nutrition and fitness fair—at the YMCA National Capital (1711 Rhode Island Avenue NW) from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. At Kids in the Kitchen, children of all ages will learn how to eat smart and make healthy lifestyle choices through exciting hands-on games and demonstrations, energizing games and delicious healthy snacks. This will be my fifth Kids in the Kitchen event and I can’t wait to strap on my apron and ‘get healthy’ with the nearly 400 kids expected for Saturday’s event. 

If tasty treats and yoga-for-kids don’t get you smiling, a new partnership between the JLW, Association of Junior League International, and Colgate’s Bright Smiles Bright Futures Campaign surely will. Colgate’s Campaign, along with their Mobile Dental Van will be joining this year’s Kids in the Kitchen to provide FREE dental screenings to kids ages 1 to 12, along with a toothbrush, games and information on oral hygiene, and a ‘report card’ on their smile. As one of seven Junior Leagues selected by AJLI to partner with Colgate and the Bright Smiles Bright Futures Campaign, we are especially excited to have the van on Saturday and at Kids in the Kitchen and other JLW events in the next few months, including D.C.’s largest homeless shelter, D.C. General.

I hope to see you all on Saturday at Kids in the Kitchen, at an upcoming Resolution Read book distributions and read-aloud sessions, or other JLW events soon – I’ll be one with the big smile.

Carly Susan Rockstroh
Community Affairs Council Director