Home » News » Green Bay » Service League marks 90 years of charitable contribution

Service League marks 90 years of charitable contribution

Service League of Green Bay
Marge Kissel and Mercedes Maloney deliver cod liver oil and oranges to an area family in November 1941. Service League of Green Bay photo

By Rick Cohler

Contributing Writer

GREEN BAY – In 1933, about four years into the Great Depression, a number of Green Bay women looked at the poverty around them and decided to try to help where they could.

Helen Joannes, wife of Leland Joannes, one of the Green Bay Packers founders, and Florence Parmentier, wife of Jules Parmentier, a successful businessman, were instrumental in the formation of the Service League of Green Bay, starting with 33 members.

This year marks the 90th anniversary for the league.

“Their quote was ‘turn spare minutes into useful hours,’” Tricia Heeg, a past League president, said. “If we all put our energy and resources together, we can do something bigger.”

According to the League’s website, some of the members took a short course in casework from Msgr. E.J. Westenberger, who was then director of the Green Bay Diocesan Apostolate, and attended social service classes at what is now Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

They were trained to help needy families obtain necessary assistance.

The beginning was simple, but rewarding, as the League provided orange juice, cod liver oil and milk to those recommended by agencies, and sewed layettes for children born into low income families.

Even though the nation was in the Depression, there was still a need to gather, dance, listen to music and take a break, so in 1934 the League held a Charity Ball at the Northland Hotel.

Minutes from a Nov. 7 meeting that year show that Mrs. E.F. Hasbrook was selected to chair the gala event scheduled for Dec. 26.

Each member was asked to bring five Christmas tree ornaments to the affair.

“They started a rummage sale in what was the Orpheum (now the Meyer) Theater,” Heeg continued. “They ran a monthly rummage sale out of that theater from 1935 to 1979 and it was just their own personal donations; things they cleared out of their closet and they wanted to help other women clothe their families and have outfits they could wear to work.”

 The rummage sale became an annual event and continued until 2000.

During World War II, the league fulfilled large knitting quotas for the American Red Cross and took responsibility for the ARC chapter’s entire quota of clothing to be sent to war victims abroad.

Members worked with the ARC Home Service, which provided aid to personnel in the armed services, their families and dependents.

This program required an indoctrination course for all workers.

Twenty-five members also took the Red Cross first aid instructor course and taught first aid in the schools and to civic groups.

After the war, the city’s needs changed, so the Service League turned its attention to other areas. “League gifts ranged from a ceramic kiln for the Curative Workshop to an artificial kidney for St. Vincent Hospital,” the website account continued.

 “Members sponsored a carnival for 500 underprivileged children of Brown County at the WBAY auditorium; provided transportation for the handicapped at Howe School to the YMCA for the swim program; decorated the playroom at St. Mary’s Hospital; aided the Neighborhood Youth Camp summer programs; helped the Easter Seal Society promote its summer camp; assisted the Y’s summer camp; and bought toys for the Cerebral Palsy clinic” and have assisted many other agencies and efforts in the city, according to the website.

“In the ‘90s, the schools needed help with education for children with special needs,” Heeg said. “The group bought a puppet collection for children with all different abilities so they started doing plays at schools with the puppets.” Heeg added that the League seeks to assist and lift up the work of other organizations.

In 1952, the league assumed sponsorship of the Green Bay Day Nursery at 716 Chicago St., Green Bay, which is now part of Encompass, Brown County’s largest childcare provider. The league is still involved with Encompass.

Current membership is in the mid-20s according to Heeg and membership had been in the mid-30s for a number of years.

“COVID put a little hit on the organization, but what was remarkable is that we never stopped,” Heeg said. “We still held the back to school store, we still did our holiday project for homeless teens, we still did our basics for baby program. We met virtually for a while then we got really creative in how we could get projects done; spaces we could use and spread out and be safe or doing things in smaller groups. During the first year of COVID, the two women who were chairing the back to school project were nurses so they knew the protocols and we were able to follow that guidance.”

As the organization’s efforts have changed with the city’s needs, so has its membership.

Initially, the members were the wives of professional men in the city because they had the time and resources.

As the culture has changed, members now are the professional women of the city who want to share their expertise with others.

“There are still quite a number of women who use the league to connect with the community and be part of something larger and they are the power houses in their career as well,” Heeg said. “They have leadership skills, so they are asked to step into leadership roles and they do it well. It’s a beautiful organization to be part of. They’re the women in my life I turn to whenever I need something or see an opportunity.”

Current programs include: the Back to School Store, Basics for Babies, Basic Necessities, Teens for Independent Living, a Christmas Giving Tree and the Big Event in conjunction with Encompass.

There are currently 22 active members, five active associates and more than 600 associates.

Current Service League of Green Bay officers are: Immediate Past President Amy Alexander; President Sandi Rodriguez; Vice President Sherrill Revolinski; Projects Chair Katy Bassindale; Treasurer Beth Beno; Fundraising Chair Janelle Binsfeld; Secretary Jessica Felich; and Membership Chair Jamie Haines.

For more information, visit serviceleaguegb.org.

Facebook Comments
Scroll to Top