The 2019 JICSL board of directors Seated: Louie Hoblitzell, Betsy Fox, Pat Thompson, Hope Woodhouse, Vicki Aspbury, Suzanne Betts and Anne Melanson Standing: Donna FitzGerald, Terry Nolan, Nancy Brewer, Ashby Longwell, Kate Thornton, Celie Tamoney and Lynn Ingrassia
In 1980, in a new, oak-canopied enclave known as John’s Island, Johnny Van Name brought 60 women together for the greater good. “We had the drive, but without the internet, everything was done by hand,” recalls Joan Woodhouse, an early member of the John’s Island Community Service League. “Most of us had been volunteers elsewhere and were now looking to do something worthwhile. It was a natural segue.” She recalls that the development was small then, even quaint. “We had elegant fashion shows where everyone dressed up. Martha Lincoln modeled at our first show,” she says. “Most of our money for charitable giving came from home tours followed by a fancy high tea. We were more formal then.”
As the neighborhood grew, so did membership, and so did the need in the larger community. Times may have changed, but the desire of members to have a positive impact has only intensified. “By the mid-1990s we got up to $100,000 in giving. We thought that was really something.” By 2015, the league had reached $10 million in cumulative giving, and in 2019, the league’s 40th year, it gave more than $1.03 million to a well-vetted group of recipient agencies.
Hope Woodhouse, Joan’s daughter and the current JICSL president, wants people to think big. “We got to this level of giving through innovation, collaboration and partnerships. We are not just tossing out money, we are being strategic,” she says. “Our members are generous; the money is available for giving, but people want to give to something really good that will move the needle.”