In the beginning. . .
In the spring of 1982, Pat Borges was on a vacation in Hawaii with a friend. Sitting around the pool, they discussed the possibility of forming an Assistance League chapter in San Jose. Pat decided that she would try to get a chapter started.
When she returned, Pat talked with many of her neighbors and friends to see if there was any interest in forming a new philanthropic group in Almaden Valley. She had been a member in Sacramento, and her friend Heather Gilleland’s mother was a member in the L.A. area. She felt there was sufficient interest and decided to proceed.
The first “coffee” was planned and invitations were sent out. The invitation list consisted of Pat’s friends from her interests in bridge, bowling and golf. Heather was President of the Williams PTA and she added names to the list. Then, all of their immediate friends and neighbors were asked to join and to add their friends and neighbors to the list. Everyone was asking everyone if they would like to join! The first “coffee” was held at the Almaden Country Club and there was an excellent turnout! Over 60 women expressed an interest in becoming members.
A steering committee was formed consisting of volunteers who were willing to give of their time to begin the process of establishing Assistance Guild of San Jose. The first meetings were held in the meeting room at the local bowling lanes because so many of the prospective members, including Pat, bowled on Thursday mornings and it was easier to just have the meetings at 12:00 right there! In June of 1983 we became a Guild with 66 charter members.
One of the key members during the formation of Assistance League of San Jose was the treasurer. She filed all of the applications for non-profit status and set up the original books. This was no easy task as you all might imagine. The bylaws were written by the steering committee, submitted to National and accepted by National and the membership. Officers were elected, Pat Borges (we referred to her as our “Founding Mother” was elected President and we were on our way! (Pat passed away in 2004, but she was our honored guest at our 20th Anniversary in 2003)
Several of our members suggested that we contact the Episcopal Church in Almaden to see if we could use their Fellowship Hall (downstairs) for our meetings. They agreed and we kept the meeting time at 12:00, but met at the Church instead of the bowling alley.
The members agreed that we should have two projects (now called programs); one involving children and one for the elderly. Fingerprinting and Telecare were subsequently established. Before we could have a project, we had to have some money. The first fund raisers were “Dumb Bunny Bridge” and a “Pound Auction”, both held downstairs at the Church. We didn’t raise a ton of money, but we all worked together, invited all of our friends who were not already members and we had a wonderful time. These fundraisers netted us less that $1000 each, but it was enough to get started.
The Chapter motto: S H A R E S was chosen. The letters stand for: Sharing All Resources and Essential Services.
Then the Chapter needed a logo. The logo we designed was used on all of our stationary — you can still see it occasionally on pins worn by a charter member. Choosing that logo took many hours and several votes before the design was finally accepted. Our chapter colors were also chosen (blue & yellow). We now use the National logo and colors. They are red/white/blue as adopted by National Assistance League.
We were finally chartered on June 6, 1988 with Margie Bruno as our first Chapter President.
Over time we have added many members, moved our monthly meetings to a larger space and established new programs, adapting to the needs of the chapter and our community:
1983 Senior Bingo, members play bingo with patients at two nursing homes
1983 Hug-a-Bear, furnishing bears to adults and children in crisis
1991 The Kids on the Block, presenting a puppet show on bullying
1994 Operation School Bell, furnishing uniforms to needy public school students
2003 Screening Eyes Early (S.E.E.), screening preschoolers for amblyopia
2007 Readers are Leaders, reading to children in the classroom
2008 Caring Hands, creating knitted and crocheted items for infants, chemo patients and aging seniors
2012 Assist-a-Shelter, volunteering at Family Supportive Housing and CityTeam