Growing up in Houston, Shauna James’s mother was looking for a reason to spend time with her daughter, so the pair joined the National Charity League. The organization brings mothers and daughters together to do charity work.
Their chosen project was Meals on Wheels, delivering food to senior citizens. Before knocking on anyone’s door, James’s mother would say to her, “This is their one interaction and one hot meal today.” She would keep silent so James could carry on the conversation.
“It forced me to be on my toes and connect with senior citizens,” said James, a Naperville resident and the president of the Greater Naperville Area National Charity League chapter. “It left a lasting impact on me about how great it was to connect with them.”
James is a co-founder of the Naperville chapter, the first in Illinois, and one that also serves Aurora, Lisle, Geneva and other surrounding areas. While the organization is more than 50 years old, the Naperville chapter was founded in 2011. There are 128 members, of which 58 are mothers and 70 are daughters. The girls are in grades 6 to 12, and the organization works with 11 local charities. So far this year, the chapter has completed 927 philanthropy hours.
Both of James’s daughters, Katelyn and Kendall, are involved with National Charity League. The two Naperville Central High School students, Katelyn a senior and Kendall a sophomore, have learned from their experience.
“It’s a great way to bond with not only my mom and my sister but other girls in the area as well,” Katelyn said.
Because there are 11 charities involved, the project selection is varied. Katelyn’s favorite project was shopping for Christmas presents for a Little Friends client, making cards and dropping them off, knowing the gifts were going to a child not expecting to get much for Christmas.
Nicole Suchevits learned about National Charity League from James who is her neighbor. Suchevits and her daughter, Paige, who is a freshman at Naperville Central, joined a year ago, and Suchevits appreciates the time she and her daughter get to spend together.
“Teens generally don’t want to spend time with their parents, and this gives them a chance to do things they normally wouldn’t do,” she said. “It got (Paige) out of her box and showed her how important it is to give back.”
Suchevits said her favorite activity to date was volunteering at the Hesed House homeless shelter in Aurora. There she and her daughter prepared, served and cleaned up a meal for the clients. They also worked in the store where the organizations hands out toiletries and other necessary items.
“My daughter was very moved by that experience,” Suchevits said, adding that often when the women and girls are on their way to an event, the car is filled with grumbling from the girls. But on the way back, they are filled with thankfulness.
The organization has made such an impression on Suchevits that she serves as the vice president of membership.
Not only did James learn about interacting with people from different backgrounds, she also appreciates the opportunity to help girls build their leadership abilities. Age-specific skills like stress management and cover-letter writing they can use throughout their lives.
“We make sure they get the skills they need for various points of their lives,” Suchevits said.
Still, what they learn through working philanthropy hours will take them the furthest, teaching them how to be grateful for what they have in a way they might not learn otherwise.
“They have the chance to go out in and serve in the community together and learn life skills they would not learn anywhere else,” Suchevits said.