National Charity League Opens Winter Application Window

"We search for charity within ourselves and strive for the graciousness to share it with others."

That is the motto of National Charity League, a unique nonprofit comprised of mothers and daughters who join together to support local philanthropy while strengthening their personal ties.

According to Ellen McGraw, past president of NCL's Pleasanton chapter, "We aim to be role models for our daughters." The organization's three-pronged focus on leadership, philanthropy, and culture provides a hands-on opportunity for the young women to become acquainted with the workings of the nonprofit world. Leadership is expressed through the commitment to take on a role within their own organization. The philanthropic mission is represented by the service mother-daughter teams render to the local community. The cultural dimension is reflected in a broad range of activities, from ethnic potluck suppers to theater and music events.

The outgrowth of a group of women and daughters who began meeting for philanthropic work as far back as 1925, NCL was formally incorporated as a nonprofit in 1947. Rather than fundraising on its own, it focuses on helping other organizations meet their goals. Its format is a six-year term for daughters, who typically join at the end of sixth grade and continue until high school graduation. Each grade is a separate class, with its own officers and agenda of age-appropriate activities, undertaken in conjunction with the girls' mothers, who set the tone for the organization.

The Pleasanton Chapter has lent a hand to dozens of Tri-Valley causes since being chartered in 1998. A formal evaluation process makes sure the nonprofits the League supports are a good match with its overall program. A mother member serves as a liaison to each nonprofit, meeting regularly and proactively to determine upcoming needs.

"The community sees us as an 'uber' group of volunteers," McGraw notes. "The organizations we work with know they can count on us when they need help with events like ushering, registrations, decorations-anything where they need a lot of bodies."

For example, this past summer members devoted "hundreds of hours" to the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. They also staff the society's Discovery Shop, take tickets and act as guides for the Valley Humane Society's home and garden tour, and serve meals at Open Heart Kitchen.

Other local philanthropies NCL has assisted include: American Red Cross, Juvenile Diabetes, Taylor Foundation, Tri-Valley Haven, Hope Hospice, Shepherd's Gate, and Pleasanton Senior Center.

With training for the Chapter's incoming class starting in April, January is the prime timeframe for new member applications. McGraw emphasizes that the right candidates are those who take the commitment seriously. "We're not for everyone. We explain that the young women must be willing to fulfill the requisite number of service hours."

While community service is paramount, the deepening of the mother-daughter bond is a prized by-product of the experience. At the annual Senior Recognition event, the girls are asked about the highlights of their six-year affiliation. "The first thing they say is always, 'working with my mother,'" McGraw relates. "It's a wonderful thing for them to carry into the future."

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