By Anastasia Marchese
The Jack and Jill chapter of Northern New Jersey celebrated a milestone anniversary last month. The group is one of the oldest chapters in NJ and the oldest one in this part of the state.
The group was privileged to come together with past and current members to commemorate such a rich history of community involvement. Previous presidents were honored for their contribution to the chapter’s ongoing legacy along with newly elected president, Monique Moore Pryor.
The Jack and Jill of America organization dates its beginnings to a meeting of 20 mothers that was held in Philadelphia on Jan. 24, 1938 under the leadership of Marion Stubbs Thomas. She instituted the meeting to discuss the possibility of starting an organization “to provide social, cultural, and educational opportunities for youth between the ages of two and nineteen.”
According the organization’s national website, there are now more than 230 chapters in the U.S., with more than 40,000 family members participating currently. “Each chapter plans annual programming activities guided under a national theme.” The Power to Make a Difference” is the current “National Programmatic Thrust (that) focuses on initiatives that will equip our members and youth with the power to make a difference in our chapters, communities and in the lives of children around the country.”
There is a structure to each chapter and the children are broken up by age category for local as well as for chapter wide events. Group one is ages two through five; group two, first and second graders; group three, third and fourth grade; preteen group, fifth and sixth graders; junior teen, seventh and eighth; and senior teens, high school students in grades nine through 12. When a mother joins the group, her children automatically become part of the program and can take part in the programs designed for their age group.
According to Erica Brown Oliver, the editor of North Jersey’s bimonthly newsletter, “The Spotlight” the converse is also true, “Once your youngest child graduates from high school, you graduate out of the program.”
Mother’s whose children are no longer school aged then become Associate members, and are invited to take part in the chapter’s big events, such as the 65th Anniversary Tea that was held in May at the Essex County Country Club in West Orange.
Associate members will also come together throughout the year to renew the bonds of friendship that grew during their time as members of the organization. There is a lot of planning and work that goes into making it the “Mighty” North Jersey Chapter. Working closely with other mom’s, member’s share the responsibility of planning a month’s activities for the group in which they have children.
Brown Oliver and another mom were in charge of planning the activities for the group that her daughter is part of. “We took October and did a two hour fencing lesson with the kids. It was a great thing to do as a group.” They also learned about the history of fencing and its historical and continued importance.
In addition to monthly activities for the groups, the chapter also organizes chapter wide activities to which sister groups are often also invited. Back in April, the chapter organized its annual Skills Olympics, this year entitled “Power up with 21st Century Skills.” A variety of speakers came to educate and prepare the children and inform parents as well. Shell Williams, who is the Education Chair for the North Jersey Chapter, organized the event which included “Phenomenal speakers, facilitators, and workshops on technology, entrepreneurship, art, science and expressive communication.”
In addition to educational programs for members and children, the Jack and Jill organization has a commitment to community service. Some groups visited the Montclair Inn in February and March to play board games with the seniors and built intergenerational relationships. The senior teens spent volunteer hours helping at Christine’s Soup Kitchen at Holy Trinity Church in March.
Fundraisers and other community service projects are a cornerstone of the Jack and Jill mission.
The North Jersey Chapter is grateful for its rich history as well as its continued opportunity to serve the community. To find out more about the North jersey Chapter, go to www.mightynorthjersey.com