The Junior League’s contributions, including helping the Portland police, are saluted at the Fire & Ice Fete.

Despite its diminutive-sounding name, there’s nothing small about the Junior League.

“Very few organizations have such a long history in the Portland area,” said Liz Smith, president of the Junior League of Portland, Maine, celebrating its 92 years and 285 members at the nonprofit’s inaugural Fire & Ice Fete last week.

If you’re familiar with the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, Kids First Center, Ronald McDonald House, Center for Grieving Children, Preble Street social service agency or the Backpack Program, you already know some of the facets of the community where the league has played a role.

“If places have needed a lot of elbow grease, we’ve had this organization of women to get things started. There’s time and energy, but there’s also a lot of skills, talent and ideas,” said Ashley Shinay, an event committee member. “The majority of our members are educated women who are working and balancing family and a lot of other things. It’s busy people.”

“We try to find where the gaps are and to help fill them,” said Katelyn Michaud, a member of the research committee.

One of those gaps was filled by working with the Portland Police Department a decade ago to bring the Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) here to provide emotional and practical support to people in the midst of devastating events.

“There’s a group of angels who will have someone there in 20 minutes,” said Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck. “TIP has been an incredible tool for our first responders on a day-to-day basis. We want to help folks who, in many cases, are having the worst days of their lives, often involving a death in the family.” Last year, TIP assisted 1,385 citizens.

At the fete, Sauschuck was honored for outstanding community leadership for his ongoing commitment to TIP. But the love went both ways. As Sauschuck spoke about the deadly Noyes Street fire last fall, he said, “Who did I call first? I called a volunteer program.”

“The Junior League touches so many different areas of the community,” said Quincy Hentzel, who is on the boards of five organizations. “In Portland, the community is so tightly knit, you can really make a difference.”

“It’s a lot of really amazing women who are go-getters and who want to change the world,” said new member Lisa Difedele.

“We tend to be a little bit behind the scenes,” said new member Eliza Warren Giberson. “But it’s a way to give back and have the social activity as well.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be contacted at:

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