Member Spotlight

Tracy Tucker

Tracy Tucker
Junior League of Topeka
2021-2022 Project Coordinator

How long have you been involved with League?
I joined in the fall of 2015, at the urging of my manager at the time.

What have you been involved with since joining the Junior League of Topeka?
I’ve spent the strong majority of my League time on the Community Impact Council.  Two of those years, I was Project Co-Chair when we had Diaper Depot.  I’m now Project Coordinator and help manage our communications such as the weekly eblast!

Where did you grow up?
I grew up outside the itty-bitty town of Sylvan Grove, KS.  I moved to Topeka to attend Washburn University, and haven’t left!

What do you do for a living?
I’ve been in Marketing at Kansas Lottery for nearly five years.  Before that, I was at Prairie Band Casino & Resort for 12 years.

What do you love most about League?
I love being able to give back to the community in a tangible way.  It’s also been great meeting the lovely ladies of Junior League of Topeka, as well as people in the community.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to join Junior League of Topeka?
Do it! Whatever it is you may be looking for, it can surely be found in the Junior League of Topeka.  Just want some social time with the gals? It’s here.  Looking to network professionally?  Lots of contacts.  Seeking fulfillment by helping others?  Absolutely available.  

What are you involved in outside of League?
I’m currently on the board for USD 501 Parents As Teachers, and am looking forward to spending more time working with a couple groups at church.  Our daughters are surely going to be getting more active, so I’m sure the chauffer lifestyle will be reinvigorated soon. 

Tell me something else about you?
I grew up on a farm, and love getting back as often as I can, which is never enough.  Since our yard is not conducive to hoof stock, we did “allow” Santa to bring the girls each a rabbit last Christmas, in hopes to instill some life lessons.  Those two rabbits have multiplied, though.  If anyone would like one, just let me know!  

Partner Spotlight: CASA of Shawnee County

The daughters of Brie Parks, 2021-2022 President, helping decorate cookies for the 2021 CASA Homes for the Holidays.

CASA is an organization that utilizes volunteers to advocate for the best interest of children and youth who are involved in the court system. In 1985, the Junior League of Topeka conducted a survey to determine the need for an organization like CASA and found children in Shawnee County could benefit from advocates. This lead to the Junior League of Topeka providing funding and volunteers to help establish CASA of Shawnee County.

Today, members of the Junior League of Topeka continue to show their support in a variety of ways, most recently by donating and compiling training manuals for future Advocates and by baking cookies for their CASA Homes for the Holidays event.


Happy Veteran’s Day: Member Spotlight

Junior League of Topeka Member, SGT. Jeri Billings-Carpenter, serves in the Kansas Army National Guard.

What inspired you to join the military?

I joined when I was 21 years old, and at that time, I remember feeling trapped in this cycle of go to school, go to work, sleep, and repeat. I was restless and desperately searching for purpose. I wanted to do something for me, something I could be proud of. As crazy as it sounds, ultimately, that calling led me to an Army recruiter’s office.

SGT Jeri Billings-Carpenter
Junior League of Topeka

What has your experience been as a woman in the military?

My experience as a woman within the military has been a ride, that’s for sure. While great strides have been made to make the military more inclusive of women, it is still very much a “man’s world.” For me, that looks like both an internal and external battle. Internally, I’m always striving to be the best Soldier I can be. When people hear my name, I want them to think, “oh yeah, she gets stuff done and can hold her own.” There’s a quote I’ve heard before that kind of sums up my internal struggles perfectly. “Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say ‘she doesn’t have what it takes;’ they will say, ‘women don’t have what it takes.’” Externally, it can be difficult putting on the uniform every morning and concealing my femininity. We are restricted on our overall appearance. I miss being able to wear my hair down on a daily basis and paint my fingernails wild colors. But don’t get it twisted, I’ve never felt like more of a confident, fierce woman than I have since joining the military.

What would you tell girls or young women today looking for ways to join?

I will always encourage girls or young women looking to serve to 110% go for it! I am all about empowering all women, but the ones who go after unconventional roles (like the military) will always be near and dear to me. You are capable of way more than you would ever believe, and these types of roles bring that out. It won’t always be good, there are some really hard days and difficult seasons, but I can promise you without the military I wouldn’t be the woman I am today, and little Jeri would be so amazed, and happy, about the Jeri I am now.

Thank you, Jeri, and all those that have served, for your service!

Junior League Members Fighting Food Insecurity

It was so great joining together last month with other Junior League of Topeka members to support our community by packing boxes of food at Harvesters!

Interested in learning more about membership with the Junior League of Topeka? Email membership@jltopeka.org

Junior League of Topeka donates $5,000 to the YWCA of Northeast Kansas

To close out the Junior League of Topeka’s 3rd Annual Little Black Dress Initiative we presented the YWCA of Northeast Kansas with a $5,000 donation to help establish a children’s space in their emergency shelters. In addition to the donation, members also collected urgently needed items for YWCA residents.

“This week, members and friends of the Junior League of Topeka have joined together as advocates by wearing one black dress – the same black dress – for five days in a row to illustrate how limited resources affect daily life, and to raise funds to support the Junior League of Topeka and their projects to address key factors of poverty and community instability,” says Brie Engelken-Parks, President of the Junior League of Topeka. “This social experience shines light on how a lack of resources limits a individuals’ opportunities.” 

By wearing a sticker or button that read “Ask me about my Dress,” LBDI advocates invited and welcomed dialogue among colleagues, friends, and strangers to raise awareness about generational poverty while they shared their journey’s on social media.

Click here for the full story! 

Photo courtesy of WIBW

To the Stars

The Junior League is proud to present its second limited edition Topeka/Kansas inspired ornament created locally by Kymm at Prairie Glass Studio.

CLICK HERE TO GRAB YOURS NOW!

These handcrafted glass ornaments (4.5″ wide x 2.5″ tall) are a beautiful blue color and say “To the Stars” .Available by pre-order until October 15th. At just $30 each, these make lovely gifts for hostesses, teachers, co-workers, family members and friends.

Please shop local for your gifts this year and support

Break the Cycle

Poverty and lack of education form a vicious cycle that can be impossible to escape without the means to get a good job and change your life. This week was our 3rd Annual Little Black Dress Initiative campaign. Advocates have worn the same black dress for 5 days in a row to illustrate the effects that poverty can have on a woman’s access to resources, her self-esteem, and professional opportunities. Help us raise support efforts to break the cycle of poverty in Topeka. Thank you to the numerous women and community partners in Topeka who are helping #JLTopeka raise money for and bring awareness on the issue of community instability in Topeka. With your support we hope to meet our goal for this year! Click here to help make this happen:https://www.gofundme.com/charity/junior-league-of-topeka

Little Black Dress Initiative Day 5

Today is the 5th and final day of the “Little Black Dress Initiative.” Today’s collage features advocates wearing their little black dresses to help illustrate how poverty can effect women’s access to opportunities and resources. The good news here is that with your help and with the support of our amazing community partners like the YWCA of NE Kansas we CAN make a difference!

Could you make it on $20,000/year?

By Brie Engelken-Parks

It seems that everywhere you go these days you see 🛑HELP WANTED🛑 signs but that doesn’t mean people are doing just fine and don’t still need support –

❣️Underemployment is a very real thing right now.
For this year’s Little Black Dress Imitative, I’m doing the #fooddessertchallenge where I has caused me to step back and evaluate how much items really cost.

A food desert is defined as an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food. In Shawnee County, there are currently nine census tracts that are defined as “food deserts” according to the Shawnee County Community Health Improvement Plan from 2019.

The Food Desert Challenge rules (with some tweaks):

🖤 $5/day for all meals
🖤 All groceries and necessities must come from a convenience store the same location because many impacted by food insecurity also live in a food dessert.
🖤 Cannot use anything I had prior to this week
🖤 I’m allowed to indulge in free offerings (free food at work, etc.) because this is often what gets many by each week!

❣️If you make $10/hr, or roughly $20,000/yr, and work 40 hours a week your take home pay each month is roughly $865/mo

❣️A 2 bedroom apartment in Kansas is an average of $750/mo

❣️Utilities would be roughly $150 on average 🤍

🖤And already your monthly income is gone. And that’s with a job! 🖤🤍

The Junior League of Topeka’s Capital Impact Leadership Summit & Immediate Impact Projects help lift those impacted up and work to stop the cycle. YOU CAN HELP!

TO DONATE: https://www.gofundme.com/f/brie-parks-2021-LBDI-campaign

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DAY THREE: Advocates have taken a pledge to “live with Limitation” for 5 days by wearing the same dress each day this week for the Little Black Dress initiative. Clothing can have a profound impact on a person’s outlook and access. And when you’re one of the mothers living in poverty while trying to provide for your family can make it nearly impossible to get ahead.If you’re a parent join us in supporting these women living in poverty. Help us remove barriers and break the cycle of generational poverty. Click here to help support programs that combat community instability https://www.gofundme.com/charity/junior-league-of-topeka