The Statesboro Service League gathered at the Botanic Garden at Georgia Southern on May 1 of this year to celebrate a huge milestone together: 50 years of service to the Statesboro community.
The League was organized in the Lamplighter Room of the Statesboro Howard Johnson on North Main on February 5, 1973. Thirty members and two advisors -- Jewell Brown Parker and Nona Quinn Bunce -- met and founded a club dedicated to women working for and encouraging improvement of our community, which would translate to improvement of our county, and consequently, our state and nation.
Charter member Sarah Youngblood Hines recalls that day fondly and reflects on all that has come from it.
"I'm just very, very proud of what we've created," she said. "The 30 of us were very close friends, and we were very serious about it. It wasn't just a gathering to eat lunch and have fun -- although it was that, too."
The goal and the work of the Service League have remained the same since that day.
"I feel like we've made a very positive influence in the town with service, and that was the point of it," Hines shared. "To give a venue for women to serve their community -- to make it a better place for their families and for children to grow up."
New members are welcomed each year in the Provisional Class and asked to commit ten years of service to the League. After that time, they remain on as Sustainers.
Today, the Statesboro Service League stands 130 active members strong, with a long list of ongoing projects in the Statesboro community. They welcomed ten new provisional members this year and are bolstered by the support of 250 Sustainers.
A wide-ranging legacy of service
Since it was founded, the Statesboro Service League has stressed the importance of young women who recognize a responsibility to their community. Through their fundraising efforts and countless volunteer hours, so many projects have been made possible in Bulloch County.
Hines shared that the League's first project, which continues to this day, was hearing and vision screenings in the local schools. She said they've identified countless children over the years who needed glasses, and it has also been an opportunity to be present in the schools and get to know teachers and students. And like many of the League's projects, it meets an existing need in the community.
"That's been our focus: to co-partner and meet a need that nobody else could meet or was meeting," she said. "And, of course, as we've grown, we have financially been able to do more things."
Current Provisional Class members like Kate Mincey say after seeing the work of the League in our community, they were inspired to become a part of it.
"I chose to join Statesboro Service League because I wanted to give back to our community," she shared. "I knew that through their many projects and community events, joining Service League would give me that opportunity. I am excited to instill these same values and a desire to serve and give back to the community in my four daughters."
Current service initiatives in the League include Wellness, Sight & Hearing, Women's Outreach, Kid's Closet, Foster Care, Camp Gateway and Gateway Girls, Ordered Steps, Environmental Preservation, and Families with Special Needs. The League also provides scholarships to high school seniors annually and participates in a variety of smaller "Done In A Day" projects.
Sustainer Elizabeth Anne Harrison, who joined the League in 2007 and completed ten years of active service, has fond memories of working with the girls of Camp Gateway and Gateway Girls, especially as an educator. The girls in this program are nominated by their teachers for being hard workers and excellent classmates. Harrison said the week is not only jam-packed full of fun but also focused on helping the young participants become better citizens.
"Being an educator, I can see how much the Statesboro Service League has impacted future generations," she said. "I hope through programs like Gateway Girls that the girls attending camp see that the women in SSL take pride in their community and want to make it a better place. In turn, I hope it encourages them to one day want to help in their community, too."
From the camp experience to the clothes closet to hearing and vision checks, Harrison has seen firsthand the positive impact SSL has made on the young people of Statesboro.
"I love how our community pulls together and supports different organizations, which in the long run supports our youth," she added. "As a teacher, I feel it's very important to start with our youth because they need those resources. Even as a Sustainer, I see how much the Statesboro Service League does for our community. It's an organization that keeps on giving. All the money raised over the years has had so much impact on the Bulloch County students I teach each day."
Service with a side of fellowship
All of the time these women spend working and meeting together is not only a service to our community but also a chance for them to build special relationships and friendships with each other and celebrate life's milestones together. In line with Hines's memories of the earliest meeting, it seems that this has always been as much a part of the League as its service.
"The Statesboro Service League has a long and rich history in our community," said Loren Mathews, who joined the Savannah Junior League in 2013 before transferring to the Service League in 2015, where she served as an active member for 8 years. "It has brought together women with different backgrounds and talents and allowed them to work alongside one another to reach common goals. In addition to providing a pathway to serve others in our area, it has also over the years become a beacon that women have gathered around for fellowship and friendship."
A favorite of the League members is the annual Sherry Party, held at Christmastime. The name is a throwback term to the time of the League's founding, meaning a classy social gathering. This is a time each year when the League gathers for fellowship and reflection.
"For me, the Sherry Party is the best of both worlds," current League member Ashley Anderson, who joined in 2020, said. "We come together, share our progress, see fellow League members we haven't seen lately, like our wonderful Sustainers, and celebrate our accomplishments during the most wonderful time of the year. It recharges our batteries and refills our giving cups."
50 Years of the Attic Sale
The Service League is perhaps best known for its annual Attic Sale fundraiser, its mechanism for funding all its projects. Rather than holding smaller fundraisers throughout the year, all members focus on this one large initiative, held in the fall of each year. The sale typically raises tens of thousands to support the League's work for the coming year.
This year's sale, scheduled for September 30th at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds, is the League's 50th. The sale is as storied as the League itself, with community members often lining up before dawn to seek the best items and deals. Bonnie Grist chaired the first Attic Sale in 1973, which was held in Bowen's Furniture Store.
Last year was an especially memorable sale, as SSL worked tirelessly through the threat of an impending hurricane, knowing that portions of the roof over the carefully curated merchandise might be leaky. Even worse, Hurricane Ian was scheduled to hit Statesboro on the day of the sale.
But through a positive outlook and incredibly strong dedication to their cause, the League, under the leadership of Attic Sale Chair Karen Brazell, quickly pivoted to offer online sales ahead of the weekend and continued to power through. Ian changed course, and the 49th annual Attic Sale went off without a hitch.
The League also now maintains an online marketplace throughout the year on Facebook, with proceeds going to the sale each fall.
"We are honored to come together this year and be able to provide our community with the 50th Attic Sale," 2023 Attic Sale Chair Kimberly Sharpe said. "We are looking forward to taking on this year with clear eyes and a full heart as we continue to build our league and community."
Continuing the legacy
With each year's new members committing to ten years of service, the Statesboro Service League will surely continue on for many more years to come, meeting needs in the Statesboro community and changing lives in the process.
Hines, like so many other Sustainers throughout the years, says she will support the League as long as she's able.
"I feel like we met our goal, and the younger girls are continuing it now," Hines said. "As our county and city have grown, our needs have grown. I'll always be supportive of them and show up and be there."
Outgoing President Ashley Branan Sheffield wrote in her final letter to the League in the spring that she felt nothing but gratitude "after witnessing 129 ladies work together over the past 12 months for the common good of a community that we all cherish."
Incoming President Anna Keys Durden is ready to carry on that same legacy in her year at the helm.
"After an incredible year of celebrating our 50th, we are as dedicated as ever to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of our members in community affairs, and demonstrating the effectiveness of trained volunteers," Durden said. "Over the past year, we have reflected on our history and celebrated the many women who have faithfully served our community. We will continue to carry out this legacy of leadership and devotion to Statesboro.
I am honored to begin my term as president and look forward to serving our community alongside the members of the Statesboro Service League this year. Jesus told us to love our neighbors, and one of the best ways to love them is to serve them! I am so encouraged to see the wonderful ways the Statesboro Service League will serve our neighbors this year and in the years to come."
Congratulations, Statesboro Service League, on 50 years! May the next 50 continue to bring service opportunities and sisterhood for the women of Statesboro!