Since 1928, Jaycees have been a force for good in California, around the country, and around the world.
It all began when a 22-year-old St. Louis bank clerk and Herculaneum Dance Club president set out to attack such wild new dances as the grizzly beat, tango, and fox trot.
The Context. At a time when most young men were out of school and working by the age of 15, a man's first job was likely the job he would hold throughout his life. With luck and hard work, some might reach executive positions by their forties.
The Need. In 1913, a group of young men led by 22-year old Henry Giessenbier formed a dance club in St. Louis. This group believed that if young people were to improve their prospects for social and career advancement, they would first have to join forces socially. Membership swelled from 32 to 750 members in just five months.
The Birth of a Movement. With the help and guidance of established civic and business leaders, the dance club formed the Young Men's Progressive Civic Association, later changing their name to Junior Citizens before finally affiliating with the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce, after which the fame of their civic work began to spread. In January of 1920, chapters in 12 cities met to form the national organization, United States Junior Chamber of Commerce, for which Henry Giessenbier served as its first President.
Lectures, speakers and training sessions provided the group with needed knowledge. But some method was needed for members to apply what they had learned. Service to the community provided the answer. Community service allowed members practical application of the insights they had learned. It was then that the Junior Chamber movement achieved its goal: building better leaders.
The Impact. Since then, the United States Junior Chamber (as its now called) has expanded to include women, reflecting the growing influence and leadership of women in America.
Jaycees helped establish AirMail services in America with Jaycee member Charles Lindbergh, and have raised millions of dollars for causes such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, and AIDS prevention. They have built parks, playgrounds, hospitals, ball fields, and housing for the elderly while conducting service and support programs in thousands of communities nationwide. They have been involved in many government affairs efforts, including establishment of the first "Get Out the Vote" campaign, support of statehood for Alaska and Hawaii, and the Governmental Affairs Leadership Seminar, among many other efforts.
Jaycees have come from all walks of life, and all different industries, including: governmental leaders, such as President Gerald Ford and Governor Pete Wilson; business tycoons, such as Domino’s Pizza mogul Tom Monaghan; sports heroes, like basketball great Larry Bird; and registered nurse and former Miss America Kaye Lani Rae Rafko-Wilson.