When the Junior League of Portland was founded 95 years ago, the 12 original members never would have dreamed that a woman would one day be a police officer, never mind police chief.

Fast forward to 2018, and the Junior League of Portland Award for Outstanding Community Leadership recipient honored at the organization’s annual gala was Janine Roberts, chief of police for the city of Westbrook, esteemed for her work leading community partnerships with nonprofits such as Opportunity Alliance.

“People invested in me, and I know we have to keep investing in our youths,” Roberts said at the Feb. 2 event at Cellardoor Winery at the Point. “Our community partnerships are huge. We’ll never enforce our way out of any community problems. The key to children’s success is having adults and family there with the resources needed to help them develop resilience, not just to survive but to thrive. They need role models who mentor them to make the right decisions, as well as support them when they make mistakes, as we all do.”

Junior League members have donated Thanksgiving baskets and winter coats and boots and volunteered at neighborhood events in Westbrook.

“The Junior League has helped us truly help neighbors who are struggling,” said Chris Gorman, director of resident leadership for Opportunity Alliance, which is opening a neighborhood hub near the Dana Warp Mill in Westbrook. “We work with the whole neighborhood so that kids can grow up in a safe and supportive community. Our neighborhood hub is just down the street from Chief Roberts’ community policing station, and the way she approaches policing is by respecting people.”

Junior League member Leah Wallof works alongside Roberts and Gorman on the Community Partnerships for Protecting Children (CPPC) governance board.

“It’s awesome to go in to help communities before there’s a problem,” Wallof said. “We try to help them knit their communities together, to know what resources are available and to build a support system.”

The gala raised $27,000 for the Junior League’s general fund to support its mission of training women to be effective community volunteers.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer from Scarborough. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

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