In the spring of 1991, Donna Beckett and Betty McClure began an enthusiastic campaign to interest others in Columbia in forming an Assistance League guild. Encouraged by Assistance League chapter members in St. Louis and Kansas City, they attracted an excited group who recognized the potential of the organization for the community.
That September other women throughout the community were invited to learn more about the mission and vision of Assistance League. In 1992 a guild was officially begun, and by 1994 all the criteria for becoming the 90th chapter of Assistance League had been met. The first office was in the Green Meadows Shopping Center. From the beginning, Assistance League of Mid-Missouri lived its motto, “Working together…Making a difference.”
By the spring of 1996, the eager chapter members had researched, implemented, and were funding four philanthropic programs: Kaboodle Kits, Book Bags, Links to Learning, and Assault Survivor Kits®. They had developed two major sources of revenue: Cookie Connection and the Columbia Community Resource Calendar. Participation in Comedy Night, a fund raiser co-sponsored with Job Point, began in 1997.
In 1997, five years after receiving our charter, Assistance League of Mid-Missouri had increased the scope of existing philanthropic programs and added Parent Packs, I Wonder Bags, and Operation School Bell®. That year, members were delighted to reach a membership goal of 100 active members, lease our second chapter office, and sponsor the new Professional Leaders Auxiliary, the working women’s arm of the Assistance League of Mid-Missouri.
The year 1998 found the chapter moving from the Forum Shopping Center to the Broadway Shopping Center to accommodate our need for meeting space and storage. That year the Auxiliary adopted The Shelter, serving victims of domestic violence and their families, as their major philanthropic program.
In April 1999 the excited but somewhat apprehensive chapter opened a resale store—Upscale Resale. Judy Carter and Becky MacLellan, chapter members and previous presidents, along with volunteer shop manager Darwin Blanchard, led the effort to make Upscale Resale a success. Chapter members were justifiably proud of our achievement when Upscale Resale was recognized in 2002 by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce as the Small Business of the Year in the Not-for-Profit category.
Again, growing pains prompted Assistance League to consolidate the resale shop operations, the Operation School Bell inventory of new clothes, and the chapter office at a larger, custom-designed, more visible site in the Broadway Shopping Center, our fourth location. November 1, 2000 was opening day.
The financial success of Upscale Resale and the “Fill Your Heart” donor letter, which began in 2001, allowed Assistance League of Mid-Missouri to significantly increase funding for all philanthropic programs, especially Operation School Bell and Links to Learning. In 2002 Bundles for Babies was added to our existing Parent Packs program to assist new parents as they leave the hospital after the birth of a new baby. In 2005 Assistance League of Mid-Missouri created college scholarship opportunities available to women students at Columbia College and Stephens College.
In 2008 Operation Share was established to give unused, unsold items to other local charitable organizations. The program includes a voucher program allowing clients referred by other agencies to shop for clothing and shoes at our store to help prepare them to return to the work force.
In November 2010 a committee researched the possibility of expanding Upscale Resale into the adjacent retail space. After the chapter decided it was a wonderful opportunity, construction started early in June 2011. The newly renovated space opened on August 1, 2011, expanding Upscale Resale, Operation School Bell, and office and meeting space from 6,248 to 11,680 square feet.
In 2012, the Assisting Women’s Scholarship program was also expanded to include the University of Missouri. In following years, the scholarship program was renamed “Scholarships” and further amended to include male veterans and, later, high school students.
In 2019, the chapter added a new philanthropic program, Outreach, to address emergency one-time needs in the community as requested by other charitable organizations or institutions to benefit their clients.
During the 25 years since Assistance League of Mid-Missouri became a guild, the chapter has provided help to thousands of individuals in the Mid-Missouri area. Members continue to seek new ways to offer support and aid to those in need. Whether measured by dollars or service hours, the contributions to the community have been impressive. From the beginning, the energy and enthusiasm of the members has been contagious—their accomplishments are their rewards.
Assistance League of Mid-Missouri is proud of its past and looks forward to a future of Transforming Lives • Strengthening Community.