On April 4, 1960, a group of 20 women began a chapter of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in town, the Coronado Junior Woman’s Club (CJWC). Eighty years later, the CJWC is still going strong with 45 currently active members who dedicate their time to the community.
Jessica Cunningham serves as the current president of the Coronado Junior Woman’s Club, having been a part of the organization for eight years. “I was born and raised in Coronado but had just moved back in 2013 after being in the Orange County/LA area, just had my second daughter who was two months old, and was looking for, number one, a place to escape,” Cunningham remembers with a laugh. Being a mom and working from home, Cunningham found a second home in the CJWC after discovering the club through a Facebook group for moms in Coronado.
“I always knew I wanted to do some form of giving back,” Cunningham, a former Miss Coronado and no stranger to service and representing her community, mentions. “I always wanted to be in Rotary but at that time the Coronado Junior Woman’s Club was the perfect commitment.”
The CJWC organizes a variety of charitable and community driven events throughout the year such as the popular Taste of Coronado event and the Coronado Flower Show Children’s event. Cunningham tells me that many of members are introduced to the club from noticing their efforts throughout the community. “A lot of people come from seeing our events. I’ll hear, ‘I went to Taste of Coronado, found out [CJWC] did it and it was a charity, so I looked you up and came in!’, or [people] walking by the window painting in October and asking who organized this and what it is.”
When it comes to the club’s events, there are certainly community favorites that have become traditions and been around for decades, events many residents can recall loving and participating in as kids who are now watching their children enjoy those same activities. “Our main mission in the club is to enhance the spirit of Coronado,” Cunningham says. “The [Halloween] window painting was a question mark this year but [CJWC member] Lauren really did a great job, doing due diligence for safety to keep it going.”
Another such community favorite is the annual Flower Show. “The children’s Flower Show with their bean plates and different sections they can do [for the show] like growing plants and decorating flower pots, and when parents are at the show there’s a section for their kids to do arts and crafts…things that involve the children and makes them happy.” Similarly, the annual Thanksgiving Coloring Contest is coming up in which kids can submit their artistic versions of the club’s turkey drawing prompt for prizes sponsored by the CJWC.
While there is a focus on helping women and children in particular, their efforts can often be enjoyed by all in Coronado and even San Diego. “This was the 11th year for the Taste of Coronado,” Cunningham said, which was started by Diane Brown and inspired by an event that originally took place at the Del. “Diane wanted people to experience the actual atmosphere of the island and that’s how it started.”
In recent years the Taste of Coronado event has become the club’s biggest fundraiser and sees hundreds of people from town and across the bridge participate in. “Everyone loves it and we’re just so grateful to the restaurants,” Cunningham says. “We have 800 people come in and [restaurants] are providing 800 samples. We see a lot of faces, including people from over the bridge to come experience Coronado but tons of local faces, too.”
Like everyone else this year, however, the CJWC has had to adapt to the conditions of a pandemic but that hasn’t stopped them from their mission to better the lives of Coronadans. “We’re always trying to do new things,” said Cunningham, “especially this year.” When the Taste of Coronado event had to be modified, Cunningham mentioned that they’ve been figuring out ways to maintain the scholarships they sponsor to graduating high schoolers each year. “We try to use the creative minds of our members who are willing to have those ideas and to push them through.”
This year marked a first for their Band Together event where two local bands toured the neighborhoods of Coronado. Cunningham recalls, “That event was awesome because it wasn’t just trying to raise money but to bring the community together with local bands to have fun and raise moral. [It] encouraged little neighborhood parties still within people’s bubbles to listen to live music when there could be no Concert in the Park this year and it sold out really fast.”
The club is looking into potentially creating a second iteration of the Band Together for the holidays that could maybe involve the high school and local children’s choirs.
Aside from the service side of the CJWC, Cunningham says a big draw of the club has to do with the friendships made within it. Friends bringing friends is another major part of the growth of the club, and Cunningham is grateful for being able to meet so many other women in Coronado from her time spent as a member as well. “My favorite part about being the club is actually the friends – making friends I would never have had outside the club because of different interests, etc. And making better friends [with people I knew] inside the club and now through our kids as our daughters have become friends.”
As far as being president in such an unprecedented kind of year, Cunningham talks about how things like meetings suddenly became challenges to overcome. “Meetings are sometimes people’s favorite times together but we have to abide by mandates and rules and not meet in person, and it’s stressful to make those decisions.”
October marked the first time since early spring that the CJWC could meet in a hybrid in-person and over video chat session, instead of the purely over Zoom meetings they’ve previously done earlier in the year. New protocols are currently in place to keep everyone attending safe such as temperature checks and using QR codes for signing in and logging hours. “[Everyone who came in person] brought their own chairs and cups, spacing seating out, we had a screen and projector, a PowerPoint – all things president [of the club] has never had to do,” Cunningham said with a laugh. “But we had a good turnout, and it’s more work but it’s worth it when seeing people volunteering and participating and keeping events moving forward.”
When she looks back on her years in the club so far, Cunningham has a good memories and rewarding experiences. “I just love the entire season,” she says. “It’s fun getting to meet new people and I enjoy seeing friends at the meetings.”
She has loved being a part of the club’s scholarship committee that selects a high school senior for the Marilyn Foster Scholarship. “We read these essays blindly and pick a winner and each year the essays are a little different but they always get down to being an active member of the community and giving back. It’s so awesome to read about these senior girls and their plans for the future.” Every year the CJWC celebrates with a bowling event for the club members to simply enjoy themselves and being together that Cunningham looks forward to as well. “We have this white bowling pin blinged out with the club name and the winner of the night gets it for the year to pass on to the next winner…so every year it’s like, ‘oh we’re getting our game face on!’ We’re hoping and looking forward to doing it again soon, when we can.”
While there used to be an age limit to the Coronado Junior Woman’s Club, today there is no such rule and the club is always welcoming new members. “When I joined I was 30 and probably the youngest in the club, but now we have 24, 25, 26 year olds and people who are older,” Cunningham tells me. When she hears someone who’s thinking about joining but under the impression they may be too young or too old, she encourages them to come to a meeting to see if they feel like it’s a good fit.
“Are you a woman? Do you want to support our community? Support women and children? That’s who we’re looking for and we’re fun, we like to enjoy ourselves and there are some great women on our board.” According to Cunningham about half the club are Coronado natives and half are transplants to Coronado making for a fun mix of people all working hard but fun to be with. “We’re all trying to give back to same cause, we all found common ground through our love of Coronado… [The CJWC] welcomes everyone and is always looking for new people, new fundraising ideas and community events to bring everyone together.”
For more information about the Coronado Junior Woman’s Club and how to become a member, visit https://www.coronadojuniorwomans.org/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org or find them on social media. Simply let the club know you’re interested and they’ll send you information and an invitation to their next meeting (no commitments need to be made at the first meeting).