In the spring of 1991, Donna Beckett and Betty McClure began an enthusiastic campaign to interest others in Columbia in forming an Assistance League guild. Encouraged by Pat Mooney, Assistance League St. Louis, and Judy Frame, Assistance League Kansas City, they attracted an excited group who recognized the potential of the organization for the community.
That September other women throughout the community were invited to learn more about the mission and vision of Assistance League. In 1992 a guild was officially begun and by 1994 all the criteria for becoming the ninetieth chapter of Assistance League had been met. The first office was in the Green Meadows Shopping Center. From the beginning Assistance League of Mid-Missouri has lived its motto, “Working together…Making a difference.”
Assistance League thrives on challenges! Its members relish the opportunity to grow in all ways–membership, philanthropic programs, financial resources, facilities, donors, and community awareness. By the spring of 1996, the eager chapter members had researched, implemented, and were funding four philanthropic programs: Kaboodle Kits, Book Bags, Links to Learning, and Assault Survivor Kits®. They had developed two major sources of revenue: Cookie Connection and the Columbia Community Resource Calendar. Comedy Night, which is co-sponsored with Job Point, began in 1997. The members’ can-do attitude has been the driving force for accomplishment and a magnet attracting community support and other service minded women to membership.
In 1997, five years after receiving their charter, Assistance League of Mid-Missouri had added Parent Packs, I Wonder Bags, and Operation School Bell® as philanthropic programs and increased the scope of the existing programs. That year members were delighted to reach a membership goal of 100 active members, lease their second chapter office, and sponsor a new Auxiliary-Professional Leaders Auxiliary-the working women’s arm of the Assistance League of Mid-Missouri. The year 1998 found the chapter moving from the Forum Shopping Center to the Broadway Shopping Center to a larger office site to accommodate its need for meeting space and storage. That year the Auxiliary adopted The Shelter, serving women and their families, as their major philanthropic program.
In April, 1999, the excited, but somewhat apprehensive chapter opened a resale store-Upscale Resale. Judy Carter and Becky MacLellan, chapter members and previous presidents, and volunteer shop manager, Darwin Blanchard, led the effort to make Upscale Resale a success. Chapter members were justifiably proud of the ever increasing achievement of this business enterprise when Upscale Resale was recognized in 2002 by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce as the Small Business of the Year in the Not-for-Profit category.
Again, growing pains prompted Assistance League to consolidate the resale shop operations, their Operation School Bell store of new clothes, and the chapter office at a larger, custom-designed, more visible site in the Broadway Shopping Center, our fourth location. November 1, 2000 was opening day. The financial success of Upscale Resale and the Fill Your Heart donor letter, which began in 2001, allowed Assistance League of Mid-Missouri to significantly increase funding for all philanthropic programs, especially Operation School Bell® and Links to Learning. In 2002, Bundles for Babies was added to our already existing Parent Packs program to assist new parents as they leave the hospital after the birth of a new baby.
In 2005, Assistance League of Mid-Missouri created college scholarship opportunities available to women students at Columbia College and Stephens College.
In November 2010, an ad hoc committee was appointed to research the possibility of expanding Upscale Resale into the former I.B. Nuts & Fruits retail space. After deciding it was a wonderful opportunity for Assistance League of Mid-Missouri, construction started early in June, 2011. The newly renovated space opened on August 1, 2011, expanding Upscale Resale from 6,248 square feet to 11,680 square feet.
In 2012, Assistance League of Mid-Missouri signed an agreement with the University of Missouri to amend the Assisting Women’s Achievement Scholarship project to include women students at the University of Missouri.
During the twenty years since Assistance League of Mid-Missouri became a guild, the chapter has provided help to thousands of women and children in the mid-Missouri area. They continue to seek new ways to offer support and aid to those with needs. Whether measured by dollars or service hours, the contributions to the community have been impressive. From the beginning, the energy and enthusiasm of the members has been contagious – their accomplishments are their rewards. Their can-do attitude has propelled Assistance League of Mid-Missouri to new achievements every year.
Assistance League of Mid-Missouri is proud of its past and looks forward to a future of “Working together…Making a difference.”
Professional Leaders Auxiliary
In early 1997, the newly formed Auxiliary, the Professional Leaders Auxiliary, drafted a slate of officers and committee chairs. By April the philanthropic co-chairs and its committee selected the initial Auxiliary philanthropic program. A program selection report for Operation Backpack was written and accepted by National Assistance League in July of 1997. This project afforded the Auxiliary the opportunity to work directly with the Chapter and their philanthropic program, Operation School Bell. For every elementary school child clothed the Auxiliary provided a backpack. The children would have something to take their new clothing home in and would also have a backpack for use in school. This project continued the following three years.
In 1998, the philanthropic committee was tasked with the development of a signature project that would allow the Professional Leaders Auxiliary to develop over the coming years. After many months of investigating worthwhile possibilities, it was decided that Women’s Shelter, now known as True North, would be the proposed choice. The membership felt a special commitment to women in our community who needed help to overcome difficult and often dangerous situations in their lives. The members understood what a significant impact our support would make in this arena. Approved without haste, a program selection report was submitted in January, 1999 and approved by National Assistance League in May. The program was called, Shelter Projects. Over the years, the Auxiliary has been able to donate many thousands of dollars in goods and services, as well as thousands of volunteer hours by the membership. Each year the project grows in size and dimension. In 2014, to reflect the expansion of support to survivors of violence as they create a new home and pursue academic or career development, the name of the program was changed to Women in Transition. The Professional Leaders Auxiliary continues to make a difference in the lives of many women in need in our community each year.