Every September, Jewish people in our region gather to celebrate the new year, Rosh Hashanah, and mark the occasion by partaking in apples and honey. Why apples and honey? Apples and honey symbolize sweetness and good health as well as the beginning of the fall bounty.
Apples hold great symbolism for The Junior League of Philadelphia, Inc. (JLP) as well. We recently launched our Apple a Day (TM) Healthy Living Initiative, which increases access to fresh produce and healthy foods while empowering individuals and children to become advocates for their own health through nutrition education and health and wellness programs. The goals of Apple a Day are to FEED the community:
- FACILITATE increased access to fresh produce and combat malnutrition and epidemic hunger
- EDUCATE children and adults to experience the connection between healthy eating and healthy living through hands-on nutrition and exercise education programs.
- EMPOWER individuals to become advocates for their own health and wellbeing
- DISTRIBUTE more than 3,500 pounds of fresh produce annually in areas classified as food deserts each year so that adults and children in our community will live longer, healthier, and happier lives.
Similar to the Jewish and academic calendars, the JLP's major events for the calendar year kick off in September. This year was no different, and we held our first General Membership Meeting on Thursday, Sept. 13 at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia. Over 100 members assembled and engaged with our guest speakers from the Vision 2020 Initiative, spearheaded by Drexel University's School of Medicine and JLP Past President Lynn Yeakel. Vision 2020 seeks to achieve women's equality by 2020, the centennial of the 19th Amendment.
During the course of the General Membership Meeting, JLP members also learned that our 2012-2013 President Marcelle Parrish, was relinquishing her gavel and passing it to me, the President-Elect.
Marcelle, like any good Junior Leaguer, is an incredibly talented, organized, and motivated leader with an enviable professional resume. A recruiter for a major international corporation agreed with that assessment, and Marcelle received the career opportunity of a lifetime. After an agonizing decision, she reached the conclusion that frequent global travel for work, being a dedicated spouse and parent, and serving as the JLP President was too much of a balancing act even for someone with her impressive time management skills. Marcelle will now serve as an advisor to the JLP Board while I complete her term and serve as President through May 31.
My first official engagement as 2012-2013 President occurred on Saturday, Sept. 15 during our fall Service Day at Greener Partners' Hillside Farm in Media. Over 60 JLP volunteers and our families gathered to present a check in the amount of $21,500 to Greener Partners. The funds will be used to construct a new high tunnel (hoop house) at Hillside Farm and to underwrite 32 community supported agriculture shares. Through the CSS program, 32 families who qualify for SNAP benefits will receive 26 weeks of fresh, locally grown produce throughout the winter. The high tunnel will enable Greener Partners to extend their growing season year-round and will produce over 3,000 additional pounds of fresh produce annually for people in need.
Following the presentation of the check, we set about getting our hands dirty. My 5-year-old and 22-month-old daughters participated in community service as did the children of other League members. After a couple of hours of weeding, clearing corn fields, and readying the farm for fall, we washed up and sat down to enjoy fall's bounty together.
Greener Partners graciously prepared a flavorful, locally sourced lunch for us that included fresh produce from their Longview Farm and Market based in Collegeville. We dined al fresco at several communal picnic tables, enjoying perfect weather and each other's company. League members chatted about everything from new jobs to new babies and how excited we are for new beginnings.
I, too, eagerly anticipate the new League year. In addition to our partnership with Greener Partners, the JLP is forging new relationships and community programs with several area nonprofit organizations including Lankenau Medical Center, Philadelphia Orchard Project, and the Vetri Foundation for Children as part of the Apple a Day Healthy Living Initiative. We will co-sponsor health fairs, increase the distribution of and access to healthy foods, and provide nutrition and health education. We are also continuing our wonderful partnership with Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse in Fairmount Park so that area children can access a safe, affordable play space and creative programming.
Funding these endeavors will be our JLP Thrift Shop located at 25 W. Lancaster Avenue in Ardmore, our Taste of Fall Festival at Smith on October 14, our second Harvest Hustle Race 5K Run/1K walk starting at Suburban Square on November 4, and of course, the American Girl Fashion Show at the Desmond Hotel during the weekend of March 2 and 3, 2013. I would like to personally encourage you to support these fundraisers and help people within our community. The Apple a Day Healthy Living Initiative is intended to reach and benefit the entire community. That includes you and your family.
The JLP is still accepting new members through Sept. 30, so please join us and become involved. All women in the Philadelphia region who are at least 19 years of age are welcome to join.
As I sit down tonight to celebrate another Rosh Hashanah with my family and mark it with apples and honey, I want to wish everyone in the Philadelphia region a "L'Shana Tovah" (a good year) filled with sweetness, good health, love, and peace. May your name be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year.