With The Christmas Company putting a wrap on its 41st year, the Junior League of Orange County’s premier event and largest fund raiser was another success for the League and for Orange County. The 2016 event took place at the Orange County Fairgrounds on November 18-19, 2016, and the 2016 TCC goals were to honor and replicate the success and traditions of years past, while incorporating fresh, new and positive ideas that exceed the expectations of today’s exhibitors, loyal shoppers, event attendees and Junior League supporters.
Our League historian sat down with three very important and charitable Junior League of Orange County ladies to discuss the past and future of The Christmas Company. Krista Jensen met with longtime member, former TCC Manager and current TCC Sustaining Member Advisor Sally Lawrence, former TCC Manager and current TCC Sustaining Member Advisor Sandra Gee and 2016’s TCC Manager, Christina Markl to talk about their experiences with JLOCC and The Christmas Company.
From the moment we met, Krista immediately felt the genuine and great love and respect these women have for the Junior League. They have all selflessly given numerous years of service to JLOCC. They ecstatically recall how they became part of the League. Sally, who became active in 1980, remembers how thrilled she was to be chosen to be sponsored for membership in the League. “I was just so honored to be [chosen as it was] the cream of the crop of women’s philanthropic work.” Sally fondly recalls many experiences during her Provisional year in JLOCC. She loved that she became exceptionally close with the women placed on her Provisional project, The Albert Sitton Home, which eventually led JLOCC to help found the Orangewood Foundation and the Samueli Academy. She still is great friends with many of those same women over 35 years later. Sally, now a professional fund raiser, attributes her first fundraising skills to those she acquired in The League. “I just learned so much [as it gave us] entre into the Orange County community because we used to interview business people to find out what the needs were for our projects.”
Sandra was also sponsored for League membership back in 1999. She was invited by family friend. From the moment Sandra attended her first League tea, she was very impressed. She loved the comradery of the League and still meets every month with her Junior League Book Club that was formed sixteen years ago. Sandra even received a job offer from her efforts in the League.
Christina joined The Junior League in 2010 after college out of a to a strong desire “to keep with the charity aspect in [her] life” and to fulfill her love of organizing events. Christina loved that the League satisfied a side of her that she is often unable to get from her career. She enjoys what she is doing and she feels fortunate that the Junior League of Orange County provides an opportunity for its members organize a multi-day event of such a grand nature and scale. Overall, all three ladies feel exceptionally grateful to be included in an organization filled with so many wonderful and likeminded women.
To all these women, the cultivation of friendships and quality of League members is fundamental to the success of JLOCC. Christina says that the best part of JLOCC is most definitely the friendships. She recalled how she recently attended a party at a League member’s home with 20 other JLOCC ladies and loved that the other guests at the party remarked about the strength in the League’s volume and power of the friendships. While Sally feels it might be a bit harder for today’s Provisional members to get assimilated into the League, she understands that JLOCC is actively working on developing mentoring and League life programs for Provisional members to make them feel more connected and increase member retention.
Sally pointed out that the League’s demographic has changed. She feels that while the League still provides an incredible outlet for stay-at-home moms, there are also a lot more single women now in our League. She loves that it is now filled with so many intelligent women who are aware of the needs in our community. Sally thinks the evolution of the League is phenomenal and appreciates that “the core of what we do, training women to be wonderful community volunteers to make a difference in people’s lives is still there.” She gushes that “it is wonderful that we are still here and we are still relevant.”
The Christmas Company bonds these three women possess dates back almost to TCC’s inception. Sally first became The Christmas Company Manager in 1982. She absolutely loved it. She later became the Sustaining Member Advisor of TCC in 2012 and has helped with League Fund Development for numerous years. Sandra chaired The Christmas Company in 2004 after she had been placed on TCC Committees for several years. She fell in love with TCC in the 1999-2000 year after a breathtakingly beautiful and successful event chaired by Linda Colton. She decided that first year that she “needed to be part of it every year”. She was placed on TCC every single year up until she led the event five years later. Christina has been placed on The Christmas Company since becoming active during JLOCC’s 2009-2010 year. She started out in Special Events and Exhibitors and was eventually invited to Chair Special Events. She was exceptionally honored when she was asked to become the Manager-Elect for the 2015-2016 year and assumed her role as 2016’s The Christmas Company Manager.
Sally and Sandra blissfully recall the extravagance and exclusivity of The Christmas Company in its earlier years. They recollect how extraordinary and unique the gifts were for our shoppers. TCC offerings provided unique and really special things such as hostess gifts and presents for grandchildren. They remember how exquisite and cherished the creations were. At the time, they could not be found anywhere else. Sandra points out that even 10 years ago, online shopping was not a staple in society and people were unable to get anything they wanted with the click of a button on Amazon. She understands this has caused the shopping experience for our shoppers to change somewhat. Sally pointed out that in the past, there was a great focus on themes and decorations, and that the League had an accompanying budget for it. She knows this created a great feel for TCC. She also fondly reminisces about TCC’s grand social fundraising event, Opening Night. The event was so much more than something just for women to get out and shop. It was a night for League members to dress up in long, beautiful dresses, while the men dressed up in a sharp suit. Opening Night attendees dined on fabulous food from restaurants all over Orange County and the men ate and drank wine, while the women shopped. The vendors also really loved Opening Night as it was often their most lucrative evening.
Christina loves hearing the stories of years past and was excited to continue innovating this iconic JLOCC event. Online shopping is very significant, in general, this year according to Christina. She hopes this trend will progress even more in years to come. She explains that her team promoted more of the vendor and sponsor websites this year in an effort to monitor if people flow to the sites. She believed that getting people to shop online, and hopefully in person, will be a great future benefit for The Christmas Company.
Christina’s team brought back many special traditions and events from The Christmas Company’s earlier years. She brought back Preferred Shopping to the first day, which is one of our iconic special events at TCC. Christina was also ecstatic about involving more Sustaining members in The Christmas Company this past year. She feels they are an area of huge support and an enormous resource to JLOCC. She has attended every Sustainer meeting and is enormously grateful for their help on exhibitor calls, Mistletoe Madness and funding. She believes that bridging the gap between Sustaining members and Active members is a huge resource and embodies the camaraderie of the League. Christina says they are trying to focus on a bit of something for everyone as The Christmas Company really caters to all generations.
Our 42nd Annual The Christmas Company will take place on October 21 and 22 at the Orange County Fair & Event Center, so check back for more details at http://www.jlocc.org.
(Krista Jenson, 2016-2017 JLOCC Historian)
Categories: Giving Back