TODAY IS DAY TWO. If you agree this is unacceptable click here to donate and help #JLTopeka and our efforts to combat Community Instability.


1 in 6 Topekans

DAY ONE of the Little Black Dress Initiative … so that ONE DAY there will be fewer families impacted by poverty in Topeka.

Census data indicates approximately ONE in Six Topekans live in poverty and you can support the Junior League of Topeka and their community initiatives aimed at improving this statistic by donating now!


Little Black Dress Initiative 2021

Did you look in your closet full of clothes this morning and think I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR!?

What if your closet only had one thing in it? Or what if your “closet” was a bag you lived out of at a hotel or homeless shelter?

Next week is our 3rd annual Little Black Dress Initiative. Junior League of Topeka members and community advocates will be wearing the same black dress every day Monday through Friday to raise awareness about the challenges facing those who live in poverty in the Topeka area and to raise money for Junior League of Topeka programs that provide food, health, and other services to the most vulnerable among us.

To Donate: https://www.gofundme.com/charity/junior-league-of-topeka

Junior League of Topeka Honors Jenay Weekly as the 2021 Gold Rose Honoree

The Gold Rose Award honors a Sustaining Member of the Junior League of Topeka for their ongoing positive impact on our community. It is the most prestigious award given by The Junior League of Topeka, and honors someone who has used their league training to contribute to the betterment of the Topeka Community. This years recipient is Jenay Weekly. 

With a passion for education, Jenay has touched literally hundreds of students through the school and community organizations in which she has been involved for many years. She is tireless in her pursuit of educational opportunities for Topeka students as well as in the performing arts, enhancing the quality of life in our community. Jenay is an excellent communicator, sets high standards for herself and others and most importantly, provides tools for students to achieve their goals. She attributes JLT with providing her training and initial experiences in volunteerism.

Her important focus on children saw her direct plays and musicals at Robinson Middle School for 36 years. She has received recognition for her efforts by being named a Woman of Excellence in the Educator category by the YWCA, Outstanding Gifted Ed teacher in the State of Kansas, and awarded the Distinguished Staff Award for Secondary Education by USD#501. 

A most significant outcome of her passion and the training JLT provided is the Topeka Model United Nations. USD #501 cut the program, and Jenay led the efforts to find funding for continued growth to over 600 student delegates. She served as the director for 20 years, and there is now a student award in her name. 

Some of the organizations Jenay has been involved with include: 

President, Performing Arts for Children 

Director and Teacher, Melody Brown Fun Factory Summer Camp 

Board of Trustees, Topeka Civic Theatre 

Board of Directors, Topeka Festival Singers 

President, PEO Chapter FI 

President, Topeka PEO Cooperative Board 

Jenay joined JLT in 1979 and while an active member chaired and helped create the Children’s Discovery Room at the Kansas Museum of History. She was a teacher for a JLT school program working on self esteem and alcohol and drug education, served as the JayTalk editor and worked on Next to New.

As a sustaining member, Jenay has served on the Sustainer Relations Committee and is a contributing writer for the Capital Impact magazine.

Junior League Members Supporting TARC’s Wright Place to Play

Junior League of Topeka members were excited to have the opportunity to do a morning of clean up for The Wright Place to Play Playground at TARC!

TARC enhances the lives of people affected by intellectual, developmental and related disabilities through commitment to excellence in service, support and advocacy. Their vision is that all people, including those with intellectual, developmental and related disabilities experience life to their full potential.

Junior League of Topeka Members from Left to Right: Jodi Boyd, Katie Blaufuss, Jodi Litfin, Brie Engelken-Parks, Laura Harrison, Haley DaVee, Sarah Dietz, Amber Carlson, Ashley Landis, Renae Carsten.
Junior League of Topeka members, Amber Carlson and Ashley Landis cleaning the TARC Wright Place to Play getting it ready for kids to return!

Westboro Mart

By Ginger Niemann Harper

Nestled among residential neighborhoods in Central Topeka, Westboro Mart shopping plaza provides shoppers with a wide variety of goods and services. Developed by Tinkham Veale in 1931, Westboro Mart is home to eight locally owned businesses. Many of the businesses are long-standing in the community, while others are recent additions.

Photo courtesy of Visit Topeka

These businesses include: Aura Salon, Beauchamp’s Art Gallery, Customskin MedSpa, Josey Baking Co., Lilly Grace Girls Boutique, Patio Pool & Fireside, Porterfield’s Flowers & Gifts, and SOHO Interiors. While 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic proved a challenging year for many retail businesses in Topeka, the businesses in Westboro Mart found ways to adapt, sustain, and even expand their offerings.

Patio Pool & Fireside began offering curbside service for items such as: pool chemical pick-up, water testing, and purchasing outdoor grilling services. If you have a pool, the employees remain ready to come and service your equipment as usual. Porterfield’s Flowers & Gifts converted a store window near their cash registers to a walk-up service window, so customers were able to safely purchase a spot of cheer in the form of flowers throughout the pandemic. This includes their famous $5 Friday Flowers special!

Aura Salon, an Aveda Concept Salon, continued running specials and offered limited in-person shopping while providing free shipping and curbside pick up for products. For even more pampering, visit Customskin Med Spa for health and skin services, many of which are featured as monthly specials throughout the year. They also expanded their services in 2020 to include the Beauty Bar, which offers a variety of fresh pressed juices and other healthy options.

Since we all spent more time at home than ever in 2020, maybe your home is due for an interior refresh! If so, visit SOHO Interiors for boutique home interiors and design consulting services. They regularly feature their “Friday Favorites” on their Facebook page to give customers a look at items in-stock.

A new addition to the Mart is Lilly Grace Girls Boutique, which opened late-November 2020. Lilly Grace seeks to fill the need for girls ages roughly 8-14, though others may find gifts and items that can be enjoyed at any age.

Many customers may choose to get an early start on their visit to the Mart by visiting Josey Baking Co., which has made a name for itself with a variety of baked goods including this writer’s favorite, the sea salt chocolate chip cookies! Despite challenges, Josey Baking Co. has been able to host a few in-person events, such as their Saturday “Kegs and Kolaches,” and plan to continue to offer more events as the weather becomes nicer.

As you can see, Westboro Mart has many options for Topekans to support local businesses. These merchants appreciate the support they’ve received in 2020, and look forward to continuing to serve you in the future.

Perspectives from a Teacher

By Ashlee Schneider

On March 6th of 2020, I remember zipping out of my classroom as soon as the last student left the room. Spring break was officially here, and I was ready for some much-needed time off to relax and recharge for the final quarter of the school year. However, the end of this Spring Break brought emotions that I had never felt before and never want to experience again. When I got the news that I would not be returning to finish out the school year with my class, I was heartbroken. We had many fun events and activities that we would not be able to complete. There was going to be no closure to the school year, and I was not going to be given the opportunity to say “goodbye” to them before they moved onto the next grade. On top of all this, I worried about them academically, socially, and just their overall well-being for weeks.

For the remaining six weeks, I posted videos of reading, math, science, and social studies lessons. I drove all over the city to make porch deliveries to brighten their day. I met with my class two times per week via Zoom so we could just talk and see each other. The expectation was for the students to complete an hour of work each week. I had some kids that met this expectation every day, some that completed a little work, and some I never heard from or saw again. I also partnered with the State Department of Education, PBS, and other educators across the state to create a six-episode TV series to help support the families learning at home and provide them with some fun educational opportunities.

During the summer, I worked on our district taskforce to help plan for various learning scenarios for the school year. Our committee focused on the curriculum needs of the district, while others focused on logistical things for building preparedness, Human Resource concerns, and other daily activities. It was really difficult to prepare for the unknown, but the staff members, administration, board representatives, and community members spent hours researching and discussing what would be best for our students and district.

The beginning of a school year usually brings me joy and excitement, but the 2020-2021 school year brought more worry and stress than I had ever experienced before. I spent all of August getting training on the various programs we would be using for instruction and learning expectations that would be in place for COVID. We began the school year in September and in the hybrid model. This meant that half of my students would be in school on Monday and Tuesday, while the other half would be learning from home. Everyone would be learning at home on Wednesday and then the groups would switch for school and home learning. At the beginning of the year, I was really excited about the hybrid model because I was going to be able to physically have my students at school and provide them with real instruction from me and at their appropriate needs. However, a few weeks into the year and I was no longer feeling the same. I felt like I was doing the job of two teachers. The amount of time it would take to prepare for home learning and school learning consumed my life. I had parents email me with questions or technology concerns, but I couldn’t respond because I was busy teaching at school. I would have to grade assignments, make videos, and post lessons in my evenings and weekends. It was really difficult to get routines established because they were at school for two days and then I didn’t see them for six more days. I relied heavily on them getting the work done at home, but if they did not then they had a hard time following along and keeping up with what we were doing at school.

Finally, by the end of October we were back to full-time in person learning and things were becoming so much better for the students, parents, and myself. That was very short lived though and by Thanksgiving the district had decided to move to full remote learning until we returned from Christmas break. Again, I was devastated to no longer be physically with my students at one of my favorite times of year.

There were some positives that came with the change to remote learning. We were required to do live teaching sessions during this time, and I was able to meet with groups based on ability levels and continue to help them progress at their needs. However, during this time I had more students fall behind academically, and I faced more challenges with behavior when we returned to hybrid in January. By the middle of February, we were able to return to full-time in person learning and get ourselves back to routine and consistent expectations.

To say the last year has been a challenge would be an understatement. I’ve questioned myself as an educator many times, cried more times than I remember, worried endlessly about my students, and felt frustrated to not be in control of my career. Thankfully, I was blessed with an amazing group of 2nd graders, supportive parents, and my friends, family, and co-workers have been my rock through these challenging times. The kids have amazed me with their ability to adapt to the changes and continue to learn in any environment. I’ve decided to take on a new role next school year as an “Intervention Specialist” to help support more students who have had learning loss and a harder time catching up on their skills because of the Pandemic and the impact that it had on education.

It is important to understand that everyone’s situation and experiences are different. My hope from this experience is that we will understand the importance of education and collaboration of all stakeholders in these decision-making processes and to do what is truly best for the students academically, emotionally, and their overall well-being. This would make the tears and sacrifices well worth it in the end.

Diaper Depot and Beyond

How one community project inspired a transformed community
By Erin Aldridge & Tawny Stottlemire

Throughout our history, Junior League of Topeka (JLT) projects have been a catalyst for change in our community. Ideas spark and gaps in service are filled through these programs and initiatives. The Diaper Depot’s impact is no different.

In the 2018-2019 League year, Diaper Depot ownership was transferred to Community Action. As a distribution partner for the program, the fit was natural and complemented their existing social service assistance programs.

Today, Community Action continues to serve between 150 and 200 children each month, by providing a free pack of 50, size-appropriate, diapers to parents from low-income households. The program is supported solely through community donations and grants.

But, gaps in services go far beyond just diapers.

Through the partnership with the National Diaper Bank Network, Community Action sourced ways to further meet the needs of the community. This lead to a partnership that created “The Period Pantry”. “The foundation of the two programs is very similar,”
said Tawny Stottlemire, Community Action’s Executive Director. “Diaper Depot and Period Pantry allow us to address two very pressing needs for lower income mothers and menstruators.” According to data released by the Alliance for Period Supplies, an affiliate of the National Diaper Bank Network, one in four women have struggled to purchase period supplies in the past year. “Menstruation supplies are a need,” says Stottlemire, “not a luxury.”

In 2020, JLT members supported various projects, including Community Action, around the community through the creation of Period Packs.

Thanks to Community Action’s access to warehouse space, even more options became available. “Community Action rents space in a local warehouse to store and prepare our monthly diaper distribution and quarterly Period Pantry work,” Stottlemire told JLT representatives. “Because we have some available warehouse space, we are also able to participate in a product donation program with our local Bed, Bath and Beyond store.”

According to Stottlemire, Bed, Bath and Beyond provides a monthly donation of store products that range from bed sheets and pillows to curtains, clocks and candles. Community Action uses the products to help families transitioning from homelessness to furnish their homes. “Our customers have been so very appreciative, and surprised,” said Stottlemire, “by not only securing their own housing in a place they can afford and feel safe but to also have a few comforts to make it feel like a home.”

To learn more about how you can benefit from any of these services visit www.wefightpoverty.org.

Going beyond the surface needs of our community, the Junior League of Topeka is committed to continuing to find and the fill gaps to create a better Topeka for all.

Community Events September

Let us be your catch-all guide to the happenin’s in Topeka this month!

Image by ArtsConnect – First Friday Art Walk

9/3 First Friday Artwalk

NOTO Arts & Entertainment District is an attraction of all ages from all over. The restaurants, galleries, boutiques and more make NOTO the top Topeka Art Walk destination. Historic buildings are bubbling with artists, arts, music, crafts, and creative items to keep you entertained and wanting to bring a piece of NOTO home with you. Most shops are open starting at 10am and stay open late unto the evening. (Description from Explore NOTO)

10:00am-9:00pm, NOTO Arts Center 935 N Kansas Ave, Topeka, KS 66608

More information: https://explorenoto.org/event/first-friday-art-walk-5/

Image by Topeka Civic Theatre

9/10-10/2 On Golden Pond, Topeka Civic Theatre

On Golden Pond, a performance by the Topeka Civic Theatre

This is the love story of Ethel and Norman Thayer, who are returning to their summer home on Golden Pond for the forty-eighth year. He is a retired professor, nearing eighty, with heart palpitations and a failing memory—but still as tart-tongued, observant and eager for life as ever. Ethel, ten years younger, and the perfect foil for Norman, delights in all the small things that have enriched and continue to enrich their long life together. They are visited by their divorced, middle-aged daughter and her dentist fiancé, who then go off to Europe, leaving his teenage son behind for the summer. The boy quickly becomes the “grandchild” the elderly couple have longed for, and as Norman revels in taking his ward fishing and thrusting good books at him, he also learns some lessons about modern teenage awareness—and slang—in return. In the end, as the summer wanes, so does their brief idyll, and in the final, deeply moving moments of the play, Norman and Ethel are brought even closer together by the incidence of a mild heart attack. Time, they know, is now against them, but the years have been good and, perhaps, another summer on Golden Pond still awaits.

Performance schedule and tickets available here: https://topekacivictheatre.com/on-golden-pond-1

9/11 Touch a Truck

Downtown Topeka Touch A Truck is a fantastic opportunity for kids and adults of all ages to get up close and personal with trucks and vehicles! After last years event being canceled, we are back and more than ready to touch some trucks!

The event will be set up around Evergy Plaza and the surrounding streets.

Entry to Touch A Truck is free, but there is a suggested donation of canned goods to benefit Harvesters. (Description from Touch a Truck)

9:30am-1:30pm, Evergy Plaza 630 S. Kansas Ave. Topeka, KS 66603

More information: https://www.facebook.com/events/evergy-plaza/downtown-topeka-touch-a-truck-2021/806614446708545/

Image by NOTO Arts District

9/11 NOTO Live

The NOTO Arts and Entertainment District is once again planning a celebration packed full of performance art, live music, busking, and talent of all kinds!  Join us for this family friendly extravaganza and experience performers sprinkled throughout the district, with special acts at Redbud Park and Compass Point, and a grand finale by Last Carnival Act to end the evening! This action packed day includes activities for everyone!  And for our little performers, the new Otto’s Adventure Area will provide special interactive art stations and opportunities to try a little busking of their own!

Free and open to the public. VIP passes can be purchased to access NOTO LIVE VIP Backstage where you can partake in art activities, enjoy refreshments, and be wowed by close-up specialty performances offered exclusively to VIP’s. (Description from Explore NOTO)

11:30am- 8:00pm, NOTO Arts Center 935 N Kansas Ave, Topeka, KS

More information and performance schedule: https://explorenoto.org/noto-live/

Image by TFI

9/11 TFI Blues, Brews & Bites

TFI BLUES BREWS & BITES FESTIVAL features live bands, adult beverages, fantastic food, and lots of fun in the beautiful outdoor atmosphere of Ward Meade Park. Proceeds benefit the TFI KIDS FUND supporting Kansas Foster Kids to improve their quality of life. Performances include: Nace Brothers • Divas on Fire • Cate Brothers • The Josh Garrett Band (Description by TFI)

Tickets available at: https://tfifamily.org/tfi-blues-brews-bites/

2:00pm-10:00pm, Ward-Meade Park 124 NW Fillmore St, Topeka, KS 66606

Image by the Kansas Book Festival

9/18 Kansas Book Festival

The 10th annual Kansas Book Festival will take place at Washburn University, hosted by the Mabee Library at the center of campus. The 2021 Festival, which is back after being cancelled by COVID in 2020, will include free presentations by 50 authors, as well as outdoor performances, a book-art exhibit, food vendors and exhibitor tents with publishers from around Kansas.

The headliner for the 2021 Kansas Book Festival is Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments.  Nezhukumatathil’s winsome collection of nature essays includes stories from time spent as a child in Larned, and it was selected as a Favorite Book of the Year by Barnes and Noble as well as National Public Radio. It also was selected by the State Library of Kansas for a 2021 Kansas Notable Book award. (Description from Kansas Book Festival)

All presentations are free and open to the public. They will take place on the upper floor of the Mabee Library at Washburn University, in rooms 300, 302 or 303, or in the Ballroom of the Washburn Memorial Union. The only exceptions are two pre-festival presentations and an initial awards ceremony for Kansas Notable Books.

9:00am-4:00pm, Mabee Library at Washburn University 1800 SW 19th St, Topeka, KS 66621

More information and schedule of events: https://www.kansasbookfestival.com/

Image by TopCity Comedy

9/16 Third Thursdays: TopCity Comedy at the Foundry Event Center

TopCity Comedy has been bringing you the best local and touring comics since 2011. In we lost our home but not our sense of humor. And now we have a new stage at The Foundry from which to entertain and delight you!

You will want to stick around after the show for So U Think U R Funny, the original Open Mic experience. Have you always thought you were funny, Well, here is your chance to show us your funny! (Description by TopCity Comedy)

Doors open 7:00pm, show starts at 8:00pm. Foundry Event Center 400 SW 33rd St, Topeka, KS 66611

More information and to purchase tickets in advance: https://www.facebook.com/Topcitycomedy

Image by Helen Hocker Theatre

9/17-9/26 Helen Hocker Theater Fireflies

Fireflies, a performance by Helen Hocker Theater. Retired schoolteacher Eleanor Bannister lives a quiet life alone in tiny Groverdell, Texas, set in her routines and secure in her position as the town’s most respected woman—until a hole in her roof draws the attention of Abel Brown, a smooth-talking drifter intent on renovating Eleanor’s house, and possibly her life. Can the unexpected sparks of late-life romance be trusted, or is there truth in the gossip that Abel isn’t all that he seems to be? Either way, the whole town is talking.

Weekend performances 7:00pm, Helen Hocker Theater 700 SW Zoo Pkwy, Topeka, KS 66606

More information: https://topekacivictheatre.com/fireflies-1

Image by Concert in the Park

9/19 Concert in the Park

The 12th annual Concert in the Park is a free event featuring the Kings of Swing. The 15-piece Topeka band specializes in swing music of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. There will also be a performance by the Topeka High School Drumline.

The concert is a great opportunity for individuals and families to enjoy some fine music in a beautiful, park-like atmosphere or take a turn on the dance floor and showcase their swing-dancing skills. (Description by Concert in the Park)

Free admission

2:00pm-4:00pm, Memorial Park Cemetery, 3616 SW 6th Ave, Topeka, KS

More information: https://www.facebook.com/events/4161457873971139

Image by the Kansas Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit

9/21 Kansas Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit

The Kansas Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit will feature a full day of activities including keynote speeches from Kuma Roberts, Arrowhead Consulting; Dr. Jarik Conrad, author and speaker; and Eugene Kelly, VP of Global Diversity & Inclusion, Colgate Palmolive Company. You will also be able to participate in expert panel discussions and workshops and explore the impact of diversity, equity and inclusion in our workplaces and communities. The Kansas Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit is aimed at small business, corporations, non-profits and universities to enhance the discussion around DEI and promote the positive impact it can have on our community and workplaces. (Description by Kansas Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit)

9:00am-3:00pm, Prairie Band Casino and Resort, 12305 150th Rd., Mayetta, KS 66509

More information and to purchase tickets: https://www.facebook.com/events/d41d8cd9/kansas-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-summit/841713209785158/

Image by Cider Days

9/25-9/26 Cider Days

The 40th annual Cider Days Fall Market is back September 25th and 26th, 2021. Explore over 175+ makers, creators, artisans and pickers at this year’s festival. 

Saturday 10:00am-6:00pm, Sunday 11:00am-4:00pm, Stormont Vail Events Center, 1 Expocentre Dr, Topeka, KS 66612

More information: https://www.ciderdays.com/

Capital Impact Goes Digital!

Welcome to the all new Capital Impact blog, run by the Junior League of Topeka. As we transition our publication from a print magazine to an online format, we hope to continue to share uplifting stories, community challenges and local resources, plus a few fun things thrown in along the way.

With this weekly blog, our goal is to spread awareness of ways we can all lend a hand to those who need it most.

To learn more about the Junior League of Topeka, visit our website at www.jltopeka.org.