by Laura D’Ocon
Since Marry Harriman founded the Junior League in New York in 1901, the non-profit organization has worked to educate women so that they can stand for themselves and help their communities thrive.
Many things have changed at the Junior League in Miami, or JLM, which is now celebrating 88 years since it was founded. JLM has a new president who says she fights for women’s rights and understands their necessities.
“It all started as a small gathering with friends, who saw the need to help others voluntarily,” said the new president, Maria Figueroa Byrd of Coral Gables. “I was just, at the beginning, the accountant of the organization, but I saw the potential, kindness and passion of all those women, that I decided to be part of the league for 12 years.”
The organization is financially sustained through memberships and donations. The Junior League of Miami has made possible many projects since 1926 to help immigrant women, those suffering from domestic violence, homeless children and others.
According to Byrd, the league owns 21 apartments in northern Miami-Dade for women and children who have been victims of domestic violence.
“Currently the shelter is full and the services we offer are through the public-private partnership in Miami-Dade County,” Byrd said. “The lodge, Inn Transition North is a refuge for women and their children for a year until they find the way to get your life, and save to find another place to stay.”
Junior League in Miami also helped develop a second lodge in the south of the city, Inn Transition South (ITS), which is fully enclosed to ensure that women are protected.
“ITS is located in a residential area and includes a library and playground to help children better to accept the transition,” said Byrd.
She stressed that JLM has had three Hispanic presidents in its history “and I am proud to say that I am one of them.”
“The truth is that all women who are part of the JLM are a source of inspiration for the community, our goal is to help others to meet their goals,” Byrd said.
Other projects include “Our Pride Academy” where the league offers a visual arts class every two weeks for students with developmental disabilities in order to improve and enhance their creative, social, cognitive, motor skills and thin. The program consists of 10 to 12 students, ages 8-17 years.
“It seems incredible what the JLM has achieved since a few women decided to serve lunch to the needy in the city of New York. … Now the Junior League is located in Mexico, Canada, United Kingdom and United States,” Byrd said.
For more information visit the official website of Junior League in Miami: www.jlmiami.org.