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Women-led group serves the local community

November 27, 2018

Since 1982, a group of local women have served the community with a simple mission statement: “Making a difference in the lives of children, families and the elderly.”

The Cypress-Woodlands Junior Forum is a nonprofit community organization of women serving around the northwest Houston area. CWJF is a branch of the Houston Junior Forum, which was founded in 1946. CWJF is located 16000 Stuebner Airline Road, # 20, in Spring.

CWJF participates in several volunteer, philanthropy and service roles throughout the northwest Houston area, including several flagship programs like Forum Friends, a program for nurturing and developing large groups of senior citizens; and BookSmart, a program that incentivizes children to read and also gives them copies of books.

Carol Brushwood, current president of CWJF, said the organization runs on the dedication of its members.

“We have about 300 members total, including our sustainers, and about 175 actives and provisionals and pre-sustainers that actually do volunteer currently,” she said. “We work with reading incentive programs in the schools and we work with a lot of senior citizens in different venues around the area.”

CWJF works with several organizations in the area including Reach Unlimited, TOMAGWA Healthcare Ministries and school districts in the northwest Houston area, Brushwood said. According to Cheryl Faust, past president and adviser for CWJF, the organization has given more than $1 million in scholarships to students.

Over the years, the Houston Junior Forum had to expand to cover more areas. Donna Soape, vice president of service for CWJF, said the CWJF coverage area, which spans from U.S. 290 to I-45, was not receiving the service it needed before the group arrived.

“I think it is important to us because the geographic area that we are serving had been underserved,” she said. “Because we concentrate on the Cypress area, Magnolia, The Woodlands and Montgomery County, that gives us an area that is really large and really diverse.”

CWJF participates in more than 20 programs serving the elderly, and children citizens in need. Examples include members assisting on the Humanitarian Peanut Butter Canning Project assembly line, working at the Interfaith Ministries’ resale shop, and the organization’s signature program: Baxter the Bookworm, where a member dresses as the titular character before reading the book and giving copies to children.

Although CWJF wants corporate sponsors and more members, Soape said the spirit of the organization alone is enough to keep members wanting to come back.

For example, Beverly Fennessy, admissions chair for CWJF, found out about the organization while taking her dog to the vet, she said. Other members came into the organization after being approached by a friend or other member, Soape said. Each year, new members begin the process together in order to foster a sense of belonging and teamwork, Soape said.

“This has become a part of me,” she said. “I am a forum member. I think you realize just how gratifying it really is. This is [my] sixth year.”

Part of the success CWJF has with loyal members and service hours is partially due to the ease of signing up online and making one’s own schedule, but is mostly because of the members’ the need to serve, Brushwood said.

“The beauty of our organization is we tend to attract women that have a heart for service and that would be excited about getting to know other women that have that same interest,” she said. “I believe that that is a draw, it’s just getting our name out there and letting women find out about us. We tend to work under the radar a lot.”

Prospective members of CWJF can join throughout the year. The organization’s Grease Lightning Gala, which is their main form of fundraising, will occur March 30, 2019.

chevall.pryce@chron.com

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