2022 Capital Impact Leadership Summit

Students from area high schools joined us virtually on Wednesday, March 30 for the 3rd annual Capital Impact Leadership Summit. Students had the opportunity to hear from Lauren Dreher on Mindset and self confidence.

Want to check out the presentation and post event content? Reach out to Marketing@jltopeka.org to request access to the presentation!

Member Spotlight

Laura Harrison
2021-2022 Executive Secretary

Where did you grow up?

I have lived in Topeka for 24 years now.  I moved here from Acworth, GA, when I was 13 years old because of my dad’s job in the shoe business. 

What do you do for a living?

I am currently a sixth grade teacher at Auburn Elementary.

How long have you been involved with the Junior League?

This is my 3rd year in league!

Why did you join the Junior League?

One thing that I love about League is the opportunity I have been given to learn more about my city and how I can help. 

What positions or roles have you held in League?

My first year active I was a member on the Funding Council and now in my second year I serve on the board as Executive Secretary. I participated in LBDI when I was on the Funding Council and was blown away by the stories people shared with me about their struggles with food insecurity.  

What do you love most about League and what keeps you coming back year-after-year?

One thing that I love about League is the opportunity I have been given to learn more about my city and how I can help. 

What advice would you give to someone wanting to join the Junior League of Topeka?

It will be the best decision you make. You create lasting friendships, you learn about organizations in Topeka, and you learn how to be a leader in the community. 

What are you involved in outside of the League?

Outside of League I am active in my church, part of the Leadership Team at my school, and spend any other free night playing chauffeur for my four children and all their activities.   

Tell us something else about you?

I love to read books! 

Member Spotlight

Amber Carlson
2021-2022 President-Elect

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Topeka, and after leaving at 18, didn’t ever plan to return. However, life has a way of bringing everything full circle, and 18 years later we returned to be closer to family. Putting effort into the community that we raise our family in, has been a keystone in this journey.

What do you do for a living?

I am the Vice President of Operations for a company that specializes in providing specialty physician services to underserved communities. Though the bulk of my career was spent in advertising sales management and publishing.

How long have you been involved with the Junior League?

I am proud to be in my seventh year as an active member of the Junior League.

Why did you join the Junior League?

Truthfully, at that time, I joined League to get my identity back. After years of working outside the home, I found myself lost in the daily life of motherhood. I needed an outlet for my entrepreneurial energy, and I found my niche in the League. 

What positions or roles have you held in League?

I helped to formulate the plans for, and helped to launch our semi-annual magazine, Capital Impact, and served as the Editor of the Inaugural edition. I then briefly served as VP of Communications, a Member-at-Large, Recognitions and Obligations Coordinator on the Leadership Council, VP of Funding Development, and now I am honored to be President-Elect. 

What do you love most about League and what keeps you coming back year-after-year?

Being part of an organization that works for the betterment of our community is such an honor. Having a hand in facilitating change, and working hand in hand with like-minded women, has been such an empowering experience. The friendships that I have made in League through this shared journey are incredible.  

What advice would you give to someone wanting to join the Junior League of Topeka?

I would advise her to jump in with both feet! As with everything else in life, you will get out of League what you put into League. Become enthusiastically involved, create your space in the League, and prepare to grow in ways you didn’t foresee. 

What are you involved in outside of the League?

I have homeschooled four of our six children for the last seven years. 

Tell us something else about you?

My husband, Kris, and I have a big family! In addition to our six children, we have one son-in-law, and a toddler grandson. Our house is always filled with lots of noise, copious amounts of chaos, and thankfully, love. 

Do You Know the Red Flags?

Would you know if someone right in front of you was trapped in a trafficking situation? Know the signs.

Call for Nominations: 2022 Community Volunteer Award

The Community Volunteer Award is awarded annually to outstanding volunteers in our community. Award Winners are given the opportunity to designate a donation to their charity of choice from of the Junior League of Topeka in their name. These individuals have given selflessly of their time, hard work, and acts of kindness to our community and deserve to be recognized. 

Any new, active, or sustaining member of the Junior League of Topeka may submit a candidate.


December General Membership Meeting

Members of the Junior League of Topeka came together Saturday, December 5, for their December General Membership Meeting. The morning was kicked off with a presentation by Mary Boland to show stress relieving yoga stretches and lead into brunch, a presentation by Becca Spielman about the YWCA’s work followed by trivia. During the meeting, Junior League members donated books, toys and art supplies for the children’s rooms at the Center for Safety & Empowerment.

Junior League of Topeka members at the December 2021 General Membership Meeting
Brie Engelken-Parks, President, Junior League of Topeka, presents Becca Spielman, Program Director at the YWCA’s Center for Safety & Empowerment (CSE), with books, art supplies and toys for the children’s rooms at the CSE.

We’re Thankful for You!

This Thanksgiving we’re thankful for your support!  

Thanks to your continued encouragement and support for the Junior League of Topeka, we were able to continue our work of connecting women, cultivating leadership and working together to bring lasting community impact despite the challenges we’ve faced the past 18 months. Over the last year—despite being in a worldwide pandemic—we have successfully:

– Donated $5,000 and urgently needed supplies, to the YWCA which establish a children’s room at their shelters,
– Executed the Little Black Dress Poverty Awareness Campaign and a month long Child Sex Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Campaign,
– Provided leadership training for 1500 students from area high schools through the Capital Impact Leadership Summit,
– Donated 460 pounds of food to Project Topeka,
– Donated 120 towels to Operation Clean and Healthy by the Topeka Rescue Mission,
– Donated 15,000 school supply items to The Boys & Girls Club of Topeka,
– Packaged 2,000 STEAM kits for Kansas Children’s Discovery Center
– Donated 120 winter care kits to the Topeka Rescue Mission
– Painted Florence Crittenton Services to prepare new spaces for independent at-risk teens, 
– Donated more than 2,000 period packs to help fight period poverty in Topeka, 
– Donated more than $7,000 to Community Action, Inc. designated for the Diaper Depot
– Donated snacks and fidget gear to SENT Topeka & Ross Elementary’s Trust Based Relational Intervention Program, 
– Commissioned a local artist to paint a mural at the Boys and Girls Club of Topeka’s Teen Center in support of positive mental health, 
– Donated baked goods for Silverbackks Silver Sundays program, 
– Filled all Blessing Boxes in Topeka with non-perishable foods and Community Resource Pamphlets, 
– Created and donated a years’ worth of training manuals for CASA advocates, and 
– Provided eight training opportunities including the 21 Day Racial Equity Challenge and the Day on the Hill Advocacy Training. 
Next week is Giving Tuesday!
On Tuesday, November 30, people all around the world will join together for a common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving back. It unleashes the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and their world – just like the women of the Junior League have been doing for the past 85 years. 

Please consider making a donation to the Junior League of Topeka to continue supporting women building better communities. 
Thank you, today and always, for your contributions with and support of the Junior League of Topeka

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!  

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!

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!