At 60 Years Old, Arlington Jaycees Putting Focus on Future


(Friday, June 20, 2008 4:47 AM EDT)

Arlington today is quite different from the way it was in 1948, but one thing has remained constant: the Arlington Jaycees.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, the volunteer organization is one of only two remaining chapters in Northern Virginia, and current members are determined to keep the group going for decades to come.

“In marriage, 50 years is considered a milestone,” said member Paul Showalter.

“This is 60 years!” said member Dawana Branch.

Chartered Feb. 16, 1948, the Arlington Jaycees has been dedicated to its mission to empower young people (those under 40) in the county by providing opportunities for personal growth, leadership development and community involvement.

“We all have different reasons why we joined, but we're all together,” member Ariel Jones said. “We're helping the community and having fun.”

Jones said she joined because she “wanted to party” and enjoy social events, like the movie nights and bar-of-the-month, but she found that she truly enjoyed the volunteer aspects of the organization.

She eventually became the chapter president and the first black Virginia Jaycee president, which is a source of great pride for the organization.

(The Arlington Jaycees also was the home organization for the Virginia Jaycees' first female president, Lisa Pettipas.)

Other achievements members are particularly proud of include the creation of Camp Virginia Jaycee, a year-round residential outdoor recreation and education facility for children and adults with special needs.

The organization's fund-raising efforts to build National Hospital in 1948 and a traffic-island park at Wilson Boulevard and North Courthouse Road in 1969 also rank highly among the Jaycees' accomplishments.

Today, some of the Arlington Jaycees' most successful projects include Photos with Santa, which raises money to send campers to Camp Virginia Jaycee, and Kid's Day, a day full of activities, including a blueberry-pie-eating contest, at the Arlington County Fair.

The blueberry-pie-eating contest is so popular that the Arlington Jaycees have added it to the line-up of activities at its 60th-anniversary family picnic celebration on June 28.

A memorabilia room will be set up at the picnic, and will feature photos, awards, plaques and the organization's original charter and gavel.

Though the Arlington Jaycees' members have spent a lot of time reflecting on the organization's past because of the anniversary, they still have their sites firmly set in the future.

“I'd like to see the community ask to see what the Jaycees can do for them,” Showalter said.

“Our goal is to add more membership. With the population density in Arlington, we should be bigger,” said current chapter president Leandra Finder. “We know it's a transient area, but come in and be part of the organization. We want people to learn and have fun.”

The 60th anniversary family picnic will take place on Saturday, June 28 from 2 to 8 p.m. at the Lyon Park Community Center.

At the door, the cost is $30 for adults and $15 for children ages 11 to 18. Children 10 and under are admitted free.

Members of the Arlington Jaycees participate in a host of community-service activities throughout the year.

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