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Franklin Park resident helps lead Junior League of Pittsburgh into the future

| Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, 8:58 p.m.
Christina Johansen of Franklin Park, president of the Junior League of Pittsburgh for 2012-2013, center, poses with other officers during leadership training for the organization. Jennifer Kilgore, treasurer, is at left, and Gretchen Smathers, president-elect, is at right.
North Journal
Christina Johansen of Franklin Park, president of the Junior League of Pittsburgh for 2012-2013, center, poses with other officers during leadership training for the organization. Jennifer Kilgore, treasurer, is at left, and Gretchen Smathers, president-elect, is at right. Submitted

It seems that word of mouth has brought many of the Junior League of Pittsburgh women together.

That was the case for Christina Kepplinger Johansen of Frankln Park, the organization's current president, who heard about the group from a co-worker. For Amy Giammatteo of Scott Township, it was a friend's suggestion that brought her into the league.

These days, both women and their Junior League of Pittsburgh, or JLP, colleagues are preparing for the organization's 90th-anniversary gala Friday at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. Fundraisers, such as this, and membership dues support the work of the Junior League.

By its own definition: ”The Junior League of Pittsburgh is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.”

“This is an organization of like-minded women, peers, who are interested in building up the community,” Johansen, 34, said.

“There's always a place for us to find a need and accomplish something.”

Volunteer involvement has kept babies in diapers through the Huggies “Every Little Bottom” campaign, taught children about good nutrition with “Kids in the Kitchen” and encouraged them to play by building three playgrounds with the national group KaBOOM! – just to name a few of the projects. Through the nine decades of its existence, JLP has assisted hundreds of other nonprofits in their quests to make a difference where they live.

“I enjoy this,” said Giammatteo, who is co-chairwoman of the gala with Megan Worbs. Two thousand invitations were sent in the hope that the 400 tickets would sell quickly.

The Children's Museum was chosen as the gala site because the JLP helped found it in 1983.

“This gives me a chance to give back to the community in an organized fashion, through one channel.”

Johansen was involved in the partnership with KaBOOM! that helped to build three playgrounds in “child-rich and play-poor neighborhoods.”

“It's amazing to start the day with a blank slate and at the end have a shiny, new playground,” she said.

Volunteers might do the cerebral work of planning, or they also can pull on the work gloves and contribute a little sweat equity in assisting in a multitude of projects for adults, too.

Members, from a 25-mile radius around the city, represent every age group from 21 to the sustainer emeritus members who are older than 84, Johansen explained. The most active group is those ages 21 to 47. There are 163 active; 60 provisional, or new, members; and 183 sustaining members. They're single, married, divorced, working mothers and those who stay at home.

“We find benefit in the diversity of all types,” said Johansen, a senior attorney with FedEx Ground who is raising a 1-year-old son.

“I've made lifelong friends and professional contacts.”

She also discovered during her five years of membership that her grandmother had been a member of three Junior League groups in the Midwest. There are 263 across the country.

“I'm proud to be a member of an organization with talented, driven, like-minded women,” said Giammatteo, 34.

Through monthly meetings and work on various committees, JLP provides a way for women to help their communities.

“It's amazing what we can accomplish when we put our minds and hands together,” Johansen said.

“Where else can a 34-year-old serve as president of a board of directors? It's a privilege. I'm honored to be able to serve, so new to the city and so young, and for the opportunity to lead in a safe environment.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or

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