Jaycees, also known as the Junior Chamber of Commerce, defined as an organization for young people ages 21 to 39 that teaches management and individual development skills through community service, maybe the definition has changed in the last decade, but I can still give the speech with the best of them.
When I was 26, I was asked to become a Charter member of the Blackfoot Jaycees, I did this with a bit of trepidation, I wasn’t much of a joiner then. My boss talked me in to it by offering to pay my dues. That was the start of a beautiful thing.
The Jaycees is a strong community service organization, it’s similar to the Lions and the Rotary, all of those fraternal organizations, except the big difference was it focused on young people in the community. It was different in another way too, Jaycees was about doing things, not just writing checks. It was the only place I knew where you could get an award for a project that failed miserably, because at least you were trying.
My rise within the organization happened pretty rapidly, I went from being a chapter member to being the State Treasurer practically overnight when my friend, Larry, became the State President. A few years after that, there were no candidates for State President, so Larry talked me in to running. Some other friends talked to another candidate and we went from 0 to 2 overnight. What I thought was a shoe-in, became a hotly contested campaign. It was my first experience in public speaking as I hit the campaign trail and gave speech after speech. At the state convention, I was ready to throw in the towel and concede the election as they counted the final votes, Larry suggested I wait and see what happened, not to be too hasty, and I’m so glad I waited. I won the election and became the State President for the Idaho Jaycees in the 1991-1992 year.
As the year progressed, I recognized that Jaycees do change a lot of lives, but none more than my own. I learned so much about myself in that single year than I ever would have without the Jaycees. By the time a few more years had passed, I owed my entire lifestyle to the Jaycees, from my job to the opportunities I provided for my children, it truly was that life-changing.
I learned how to motivate others, how to get things done, it cemented the work ethic my family had already instilled in me, and it made me one crazy woman to work for. It was the first time I realized that I could work with any kind of person, as long as they were competent and trying. The incompetent and lazy I had no use for.
The Jaycees did so much for me, they changed me from an extrovert with introvert tendencies to an Extrovert all the time. I was energized by the people that I was surrounded by. Some of those people were local Jaycees, others were fellow State Presidents. Two men who had a significant impact on my life, Rusty and Jim were presidents in Arkansas and Wyoming at the time, they both motivated me to try harder every day. Daily and weekly phone calls over the course of that year cemented friendships that have lasted 20 years.
I owe a lot to the Jaycees for shaping me and the life I would have after. The Jaycees still are out there, albeit not as strong as they once were. I recommend being involved if the opportunity presents itself, you will get out of it far more than you put in. I am forever grateful for the lessons learned, especially that “service to humanity is the best work of life.”