Founded in 1938 in Philadelphia, Jack and Jill of America, Inc. was formed to help African American children become strong leaders through volunteer service and education. Immediate Past President and Sapphire Gala co-chair Kelli Winston is a legacy member of the organization, and her children have been involved since they were toddlers.
Teach, lead, and impact
Originally from St. Louis, Winston joined the Toledo Chapter in 2006. When Winston and her husband first moved here they didn’t know anyone, and the organization quickly became a touchstone as they began to feel like a part of the Jack and Jill family. Kelli’s 14-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter enjoy the friendships they’ve made.
Winston was proud to be involved in the 65th anniversary celebration. “It’s a huge milestone for our chapter,” she said. “The event really speaks to how the community values children.” A very special moment was when a collaborative mural was unveiled. It reads “Teach, Lead, Impact” and is filled with the self-portraits of the children who made it.
There are many stories of Jack and Jill members who have gone on to do great things in their communities. Winston recalled two members in particular. “Victoria and Olivia Phifer graduated from the Toledo Chapter more than seven years ago,” she said. “Both of these sisters held leadership positions in Jack and Jill locally and regionally, graduated from college, earned master’s degrees and have blossoming careers in public health and public relations.”
Giving children the tools
The organization has made changes over time, but it’s overall message stays the same: it is vital to give all children the tools they need to succeed.
“Jack and Jill has evolved to serve the unique needs of children and the community,” Winston said. “The opportunities we have to make a difference in the lives of children have grown. Technology has made our work easier, faster and better. Branding has made Jack and Jill more visible. We are more integrated into our communities, and we are known as a service group that focuses on children.”
“We have always been dedicated to the mission of our founders,” Winston said. “80 years later we remain committed to all children, teaching them to lead and serve.”
Winston notes “many positive changes in our society over the years, however the organization continues to face challenges as it supports the growth and development of future African-American leaders. Children in this country are still facing racism, intolerance, gun violence, education and economic inequality and health challenges. It is critically important that our organization encourages our children to speak up and speak out and that they’re never too young to make a difference.”