(Jennifer Ray, left, and Cathryn Colby)
U.S. Jaycees President Jennifer Ray visited Genesee County this past week and attended meetings with local officials. The organization is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Ray is a civil engineer from “a little bit of everywhere,” but currently calls Baltimore her home. She says she moved to Maryland for a job after graduating from college and she only knew one person in the area. That person encouraged her to join the Jaycees and after two years of coaxing, she decided to become a member. That was in 2001. It was through the Jaycees that she met her husband, became connected to the community, and the reason she now lives in Baltimore.
The Jaycees provide an opportunity to be part of a global network and do projects that make an impact and to then raise awareness through social media, she said.
Dating back to 1915, the Jaycees was started by Colonel H.N. Micgran, a prominent citizen from St. Louis who approached Henry Geissenbier, who was the leader of the Herculaneum Dance Club, and asked they become involved in civic issues. Geissenbier and his young men friends formed the young men’s progressive association (YMPCA), which then became the Junior Citizens, called the JC’s … thus, the name “Jaycees.” The whole concept started in St. Louis but grew from there.
The Jaycees were originally an all men’s club that had a woman’s auxiliary and in 1984, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing females as members. This decision prompted other organizations to allow women in as members. With Ray serving as the national president, and Cathy Colby as the New York State President for the Jaycees, it's obvious females not only joined the ranks, but have taken on leadership roles.
The Jaycees have more than 200,000 members and are always looking for civic-minded people from the ages of 18-41 to join the various chapters. Each one seeks solutions to local problems to create a "sustainable global impact." In meeting with local representatives, Ray addressed problems regarding local socioeconomic issues, citing the number of students eligible for free and reduced lunches. By meeting with different chapters, the Jaycees can share community and global resources to hopefully find solutions to an issue such as this.
On a global level, the Jaycees have assisted with numerous projects and in June, they have a National Summit in Washington, D.C., which brings together the Jaycees and various organizations to discuss national and global issues. Then they write resolutions and meet with legislators on Capitol Hill before returning to their local chapters to look at opportunities and ways to resolve issues. Ray mentioned the “Nothingbutnets” Project, which supports President Obama’s Malaria Initiative, and provides insecticide laced bed nets that prevent malaria in African countries. This is one of the many global projects the Jaycees work on. For more information on these projects, go to www.jci.cc
New York State Jaycees President Colby can be contacted at 716-474-3343 for anyone interested in learning more about the Jaycees and how to get involved in the local chapter. Her mantra is “choose your tomorrow” – encouraging the youth in the community to get out and make a difference in their communities.
President Ray said “young people are the movers and shakers. ... it is important to become active in the community by not only identifying problems, but acting on them… and that is what we do."