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Proctorville woman finds Junior League way to reach out to community

PROCTORVILLE — It started with Mary Harriman, born to the wealth of the Harriman railroad fortune, in 1901. Harriman saw the impoverished conditions of immigrants in New York City at the turn of the last century and felt it her mission to help.

She galvanized her friends and began what was then called the “Junior League for the Promotion of Settlement Movements.”

Soon the League was reaching out to those less fortunate and attracting members with an intense social conscious such as a future First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.

In its century-plus history, the League has called as members such prominent women as Barbara Bush, Laura Bush, Betty Ford, Eudora Welty, Sandra Day O’Connor and Katharine Hepburn.

Today the League remains a strong and viable avenue for volunteering, one whose benefits to the Tri-State Karen Horner of Proctorville knows full well.

Horner, who is the employment training and program manager at Goodwill Industries, joined the Junior League of Huntington, W.Va., three years ago on the encouragement of a friend.

“I like the volunteer work, meeting new people and there are events for a good cause,” Horner said.

Since its inception the League has focused on reaching out to women and children. A local League project Horner is especially focused on is “Brain Under Construction,” done in conjunction with Cabell Huntington Hospital and the United Way. Here League volunteers go into the maternity ward floor to introduce young mothers to the importance of tactile and verbal communication with their babies.

“We educate them on the importance of touching your baby, talking to your baby, how important that is in the development of the brain, talking or singing, allowing the baby to hear the mother’s voice,” Horner said. “There are a lot of youngsters we see are having babies and it is good to educate them on helping their baby grow.”

Another Huntington League program is “Kids in the Kitchen,” where volunteers go into area school systems to educate children on healthy eating habits to help reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity. The Tri-State joins southern states with having an obesity rate of 16.5 percent, which is about two percent higher than the nation’s urban rate.

Much of the League’s projects parallel Horner’s work at Goodwill where she works to get disadvantaged adults and dislocated workers back to the workforce.

“We have a career center (at Goodwill) that offers medical office skills training, business skills training, computer classes,” Horner said. “(The League projects) coincide with the type of work that I do. It is very gratifying.”

For more information on the League, contact Dominique Elmore at (304) 523-4165 or jlh25701@peoplepc.com.