If you want to know what the Statesboro Service League is, you can read all about it on the organization’s website. Organized in February 1973, the first group consisted of 32 women who got together to develop a club that would be dedicated to improving the local community. This was to be done through responsible citizenship and volunteer service.
But if you want to know who the Service League is, all you have to do is spend a few minutes talking with one of the 150 women who are members today. They’ll tell you that the League is more than just a group of women who volunteer—it’s a group of women who want to see today’s community become a better place, and tomorrow’s women be even more compassionate and giving.
Lauren Ross is the Service League’s president for the group’s upcoming year. The group meets once per month during the months of September through May. Ross is in her 10th year with the League, her last year as a full-time member. Each new member is proposed by a current member, and is asked to make a 10-year commitment.
“When they first presented me with that 10 years, I was like, 10 years? What in the world? My daughter was just about to turn 1 at that time, and she’s 10 now. It’s a long time, but you blink and it’s over. I hope that I will keep myself committed,” she said, adding that she will likely be a “sustainer,” a former member who continues on a part-time basis.
Ross says it’s easy to sit and home and not do anything when you don’t know the needs that are in your own backyard.
“For me, it created a stir in my heart that I wanted to be doing more,” she said.
During her tenure with the League, Ross has worked with committees serving in the areas of foster care, sight and hearing, Gateway Girls and wellness. She has also been in charge of public relations and publicity for the League’s annual attic sale, the organization’s only fundraiser. Being a part of the organization has been a revelation for Ross.
“For me, it just opened my eyes. I didn’t even know these programs existed. I surely would never have known or probably taken the initiative to try to help,” she said. “It almost makes it easy for you to find the place where you like to volunteer. It opens your eyes to just what our county has that we can pitch in and help with.”
As a former school nurse, the sight and hearing committee were a source of particular satisfaction. Before she had her second child, Ross was a school nurse, and did the sight and hearing evaluations for her school, so she knows firsthand what a benefit it is for SL members to assist.
Service League members come into local schools to test all third and fifth graders, as required by the state. Funds raised through the attic sale have allowed the League to purchase a vision machine that takes a picture of the eye and gives a “diagnosis,” which makes it easy for a parent to see whether a child has a vision problem.
Ashley Anderson is new to the League, and has just completed her provisional year. She is one of 25 new members, the largest group of new members the League has ever had. She was proposed for membership by Ross. She says she fell in love with the organization at first exposure.
“From the outside looking in at this wonderful group of women who come together and meet the needs of our community, which, I didn’t know there was such a need for children in general, but young girls (in particular),” she said. “Before I joined the group, I was just in awe and admiration of these women that, you know, they have careers, they have families, they’re stay-at-home, they run businesses, but yet they still have a heart, they still go above and beyond to serve our community.”
For their provisional project, the group visited a girls home that houses five girls that have been removed from their homes due to family situations. The new League members spent time with the girls, teaching them practical life skills, as well as providing some fun activities for them. Anderson says the visits with the girls really touched her heart.
“I have a young daughter too. I can’t even imagine what those girls have gone through, and what they’re going through now, to be separated from their homes,” she said.
Anderson also just finished up working with Camp Gateway, a weeklong summer camp for fourth grade girls in Bulloch County. She says that even though she’s done with that project for the year, she has a desire to do more.
“Once you experience it, it just gives you, like, a hunger to meet the needs of our community,” she said.
Gateway Girls is for girls in the fourth grade, nominated by their teachers, and meets once a month with League members. They learn life skills and do fun activities, and attend the camp in the summer.
The League also works with the area soup kitchen, they usher at the Averitt Center for the Arts when needed, work at Dancing with the Statesboro Stars, and volunteer at Safe Haven. The group provides for foster children through a partnership with Fostering Bulloch as well. League members watch the children for foster parents so that they can participate in the monthly training that is required of them. League members provide meals for the families on the night of the training, in addition to childcare.
The Service League also offers scholarships that are available to any student who is planning to attend college or technical school. There is a scholarship for students who plan to attend Georgia Southern University, and one for the college of the recipient’s choice. Although academics play a role in the selection, the students who exhibit a heart for serving the community will have the edge.
Each League member is required to give 36 hours of service each year on two different committees, and that doesn’t include the annual attic sale.
Of all the things the Service League does, the attic sale is likely the best known in the community. Held at the fairgrounds each year, the sale is the organization’s only fundraiser, and they usually make between $50,000 and $80,000, on average. They weren’t able to hold the attic sale last year, due to COVID-19, but it is planned for November this year.
Despite not being able to host the sale, the organization was able to still make difference in the community by donating from funds they had saved — funds that came from past attic sales. Ross says the League gave more money last year than they usually do, including giving to the local food bank and donating meals to hospital staff.
Ross says the attic sale takes months and months of planning, and it’s a lot of work for everyone in the League. It’s all hands on deck the day of the sale — everyone helps out.
“Before I was there, I’d always heard that people were there at 4 o’clock in the morning, lining up, ready to go,” she said. “We get there about 5 or 5:30 to get started, and I don’t think I’ve had a year where there was not a line at 5 o’clock, ready to get in. Even in the rain. We’ve had years when people were out there with umbrellas. It’s just amazing.”
The sale features a wide variety of items, including children’s toys and clothing, baby items, furniture, bedding, household items, sporting goods, books, holiday decorations, electronics and appliances.
“I love seeing how the community comes out and supports us,” Ross said. “And I want to stress that every single dollar goes back into a project locally.”
As members of the Service League, both Ross and Anderson can speak to what the organization means for them. But they also understand what their organization means for the community it serves.
“I feel like we have so much love to give and people can see that, because we do serve in different areas,” Anderson said. “A lot of counties don’t have a group of women who can come together like that, so I think that we are an inspiration to other counties and other states. It’s just a great organization to be a part of. At the end of the day, though, those children just need to be loved on.”