junior women’s club

The Mt. Lebanon Junior Women’s Club is a group of 100 young women with different backgrounds and interests who share a commitment to community service. The group has raised more than $600,000 for regional charities since it began in 1968. Along the way, the group has added opportunities for social interaction, from book clubs to dining club. Some are married, and some are single. Some have children and others do not.

If you do not know any members of the Mt. Lebanon Junior Women’s Club, you might be tempted to think the club is a throwback—a bunch of privileged “ladies who lunch,” leaving childcare and laundry to the nannies and the cleaning ladies. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although the members enjoy socializing, their mission is serious: community service.

The group of about 100 members comprises women of all backgrounds. Some are new to the area and some have lived here forever. Not everyone lives in Mt. Lebanon. Some are single parents, and others have spouses. Some have no children, and others have children. Some are employed full-time, and others are not. But the one thing they all have in common is that they work hard, especially when it comes to fundraising for local groups. Since “Juniors” was founded in 1968, the club has raised more than $600,000 for such groups as R.I.F., Operation Backpack, Young Women’s Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation, Camp Success and Matt’s Media 4 Kids with Cancer, among many other groups.

Every year, they give a $1,000 merit-based scholarship to a graduating, college-bound Mt. Lebanon High School senior. Also, they pick a major grant beneficiary annually. This year, funds will go to A Child’s Place at Mercy, which coordinates services and resources for children who have been abused. The fundraiser is Saturday, March 1, at 7 p.m., at the Duquesne University Power Center on Forbes Avenue. They also will hold a Holiday Market this month on December 7 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Mt. Lebanon Lutheran Church on Washington Road. The market will include a bake sale and a canned food drive for the Wallace Memorial Food Bank.

The ladies meet once a month at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, with a social time at 7, followed by the business meeting at 7:30. New members agree to volunteer for a community event, buy a ticket to the annual fundraiser and help plan the May member dinner. Other committees include tennis, book club and a dining group. For information, go to www.mljwc.com.

Here are dossiers of very different ladies, nicely illustrating the diversity (and commonality) of the club:


Hilary loves fireworks
Hilary loves fireworks

Name/age/residence Hilary Taylor, 36,  has lived on Pinewood Drive since May 2013, Mt. Lebanon since 2005 Family Husband, Brian; son, Garett, 21 months, and “daughter” Winnie the Weimaraner dog, 12

Memorable Juniors moment Presenting Camp Success at The Children’s Institute with a grant check for more than $60,000, in May 2007, following the annual gala for which I served as a co-chair. Our grant to Camp Success remains the largest ever given by MLJWC. Though I served as club president the following Club year (2007-08) and was proud of the things we accomplished during my term, the grant to Camp Success remains one of my proudest moments, in Juniors or out.

Best book you’ve read lately I’m a voracious fiction reader. Since I listen to books on CD in my car commuting to and from my job in Monroeville, so picking just one is hard. I recently enjoyed (non-fiction) The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler. It was full of workable tips for calming the chaos of family life, drawn from unexpected sources.

Favorite Music Alternative rock and a bit of pop. U2, Pearl Jam, Fun, Coldplay with a bit of Justin Timberlake mixed in for good measure.

A cool idea Mt. Lebanon could borrow from somewhere else you’ve lived or visited Major city fireworks on a different day than surrounding community fireworks. Columbus, Ohio, where I was born, raised and educated, has its big display on July 3 and then the community displays are on the 4th. I always liked being able to enjoy both.

Best advice you ever received Be kinder than necessary.

What’s in your purse? Wallet, checkbook, pens, lip glosses, small bag of baby wipes, a baby spoon, receipts, dozens of paint chips (for our new house!), a sample of the wallpaper for our kitchen, Ballard Designs’ recent catalog, my Fleet Feet 10k training group schedule and a few errant Cheerios!

Favorite charity/nonprofit (besides Juniors) Since the birth of my son, I’ve tried to support charities that help hungry children in the US. Our nation has so much, and I’m baffled by the statistics about children in this country going hungry.

Something nice you’ve done for someone without that person knowing I recently put money in a few expired Mt. Lebanon parking meters as I saw the meter maid (that’s probably not the PC term!) nearby writing some tickets.

Finish this sentence “When I get really stressed out and need some time to myself, I …” it used to be “go shopping,” but now, it’s  “play with my son.” I may not be by myself, but time with my always-happy son never ceases to remind me about his fleeting childhood and that the chores and errands and stresses can wait.”


Tracy is a twin!
Tracy is a twin!

Name/age/residence Tracy Kolodziek, 34 – Scott Township

Family My mother and father, Denise and Leonard. I have a twin sister, Teri, and a brother, Leonard Jr.

Memorable Juniors moment  My first benefit with Juniors and co-chairing the May Member Dinner.

Favorite Pittsburgh attraction/event I enjoy Pittsburgh’s Cultural District and all the wonderful events they offer throughout the year. I always get a season subscription to the PNC’s Broadway Across America.

Best book you’ve read lately Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and The Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.

Favorite music I listen to a vast range of music, but lately I’ve been listening to Justin Townes Earle, The Avett Brothers, Amos Lee, Alabama Shakes, Lana Del Ray, Cage the Elephant and Imagine Dragons.

Best advice you ever received It’s okay to say no once in a while. It doesn’t do anyone any good if you stretch yourself too thin with too many tasks.

What is in your purse? I guess the question should be: “What isn’t in my purse?” I always carry my wallet, lip gloss, a nail file, tissues, hand sanitizer, lotion, pens, my phone and my Sabika catalogs.

Favorite charity/nonprofit (besides Juniors!) As a member of both Juniors and Gamma Sigma Sigma National Service Sorority, I enjoy participating in a variety of events. Some of my local favorites are The Ronald McDonald House, Dress for Success Pittsburgh, and any other organization that services women and children.

The one food in your house that is yours…that makes your heart sink if someone else finishes it: I don’t mind sharing any goodies that I have, but Dove Chef Series (Chocolatiers) makes these amazing sea salted caramels. Those would probably be my favorite treat to finish myself!

Finish this sentence When I get really stressed out and need some time to myself, I….  “grab a good book to read or a good album to listen to and curl up on the couch or in a comfy chair at a local Starbucks.”


Bethany is a doc and single mom.
Bethany is a doc and single mom.

Name/age/residence Bethany Casagranda, 38, has lived on Elm Spring Road for 5 years.

Family 8-year-old daughter, Isabella, a third-grader at Jefferson Elementary School.

Best Juniors moment Two-fold. I was incredibly proud to be elected and supported by an amazing group of women to lead them as their president. But best moments always come at the annual benefit, when all of our hard work comes together to help women and children in need. I truly believe this club’s greatest pride is taking our talents and resources to help light dark places.

Favorite Pittsburgh attraction/event? Phipps Conservatory and the Carnegie Museum. I just can’t get enough. Also as a sports medicine radiologist, I have always enjoyed watching our major sports teams, preferably from great seats instead of the living room.

Favorite music Jazz, particularly piano jazz. But I have found pop music a “running necessity,” since I started running a few years ago. It’s difficult to find inspiration to tackle those Mt. Lebanon hills on the Best of Brubeck or Thelonius Monk. So yes, I run to songs my daughter sings and I’m not afraid to say it. Yeah Katy Perry…Christina Perri…any Perry.

A cool idea Mt. Lebanon could borrow from somewhere else you’ve lived or visited (More) street lights. How many times does a girl have to run into a parked car in the winter around here? Either most streets are really dark, or I’ve grown incredibly clumsy.

Best advice you’ve ever received When you think the world has taken all you have, give more.

What’s in your purse? Floss and lip gloss…always.

Something nice you’ve done for someone without that person knowing Prayed for them.

The one food in your house that is yours…that makes your heart sink if someone else finishes it: Red velvet gobs. Red velvet cupcakes. Red velvet anything!

Finish this sentence “When I get really stressed out and need some time to myself, I….” run, collapse, run some more.


Julie is a country music fan.
Julie is a country music fan.

Name/age/ residence Julie Wagner, 35, has lived on Arden Road for four years.

Family Husband, Donnie; Sons Trey and Thomas

Memorable Juniors moment Moments by the wine at our monthly meetings—you really get those random conversations with people you may not normally get to talk to.

Favorite Pittsburgh attraction/event? Everything! One moment last summer really sticks out. We left our house and in 20 minutes made it to our seats at the Pirates game.

Best book you’ve read lately Winter of the World by Ken Follett

Favorite music Country, but I also love everything. Lenka radio on Pandora is great while making dinner or for Sunday mornings.

A cool idea that Mt. Lebanon could borrow from somewhere else you’ve lived or visited. I love the layout of Main Street in Grand Junction, Colorado. It is pedestrian friendly, but there is a sense of destination when driving through that makes you want to stop instead of drive straight through.

Best advice you’ve ever received Enjoy the time with your children. It will go by too fast.

What’s in your purse? Diapers, wipes and a tape measure.

Favorite charity/ nonprofit (besides Juniors!) Social Venture Partnership of Pittsburgh. It is engaged-giving (partners donate their skills, time and resources) focusing on nonprofit organizations that serve at-risk youth in our area. There is something for everyone involved. Check it out at www.svppittsburgh.org

The one food in your house that is yours…that makes your heart sink if someone else finishes it: White cheddar popcorn

Finish this sentence “When I get really stressed out and need some time to myself, I….” go for a run or play tennis.


Maria is a marathoner.
Maria is a marathoner.

Name/age/ residence Maria Fruscello, 36, has lived in Castle Shannon for three years

Family Husband, Nick; son Jonas, 16, daughter Emily, 7, and son Caleb, 5

Memorable Juniors moment My best Juniors moment was when we presented the $27,500 check to the Young Women’s Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation. Seeing the tears in their eyes and knowing that we were able to help out in such a huge way really showed me what this group of women is capable of accomplishing.

Favorite Pittsburgh attraction/event Every time we have family in town, we head to Station Square and take the incline up to Mount Washington. The view of the city is gorgeous, and an incline is such a unique feature for a city. It really shows just how hilly this area is and how we will build houses just about anywhere!

Best book you’ve read lately In Juniors book club, our theme last year was “Books with Buz,” so we read quite a few best sellers. My favorite was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It was truly a work of deceptive genius.

A cool idea that Mt. Lebanon could borrow from somewhere else you’ve lived or visited I absolutely love the idea of moving more, so having a bike share program in Mt. Lebanon would be awesome.

Best advice you’ve ever received My absolute favorite quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”

Favorite charity or non-profit (besides Juniors!) Autism Speaks. One in 88 children right now is diagnosed with this disorder, and it’s so important to bring awareness to it, as well as continue research into autism and its causes. My nephew was recently diagnosed.

Something nice you’ve done for someone without that person knowing In the 40 days before Easter last year, I did 40 random acts of kindness. My favorite one was when I cleaned the snow off a few cars that were parked in the T lot right before the evening rush hour. I have often wondered what they thought when they returned to their vehicles.

The one food in your house that is yours…that makes your heart sink if someone else finishes it: I am in love with the sun-dried tomato-and-basil Laughing Cow cheese. I keep it hidden waaaaay in the back of the fridge so no one else will be tempted by it.

Finish this sentence “When I get really stressed out and need some time to myself, I….” run! I have run four marathons. Running is the ultimate stress relief for me.”


Photos by George Mendel