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The Student News Site of The Bishop's School

The Tower

The Student News Site of The Bishop's School

The Tower

The Student News Site of The Bishop's School

The Tower

An Insider’s Defense Against National Charity League’s Misconceptions

A look into what NCL truly is
National Charity League Logo
National Charity League Logo

My mom and I first discovered the National Charity League (NCL) when a friend asked us if we were interested in joining a mother-daughter service organization. I was interested because I have always loved doing charity and helping out in the community. My mom wanted to join because she wanted to spend more time with me as I went through my teenage years, when most girls start to become independent, all the while doing meaningful service. I am grateful for NCL because we have so much fun together at the meetings and while completing philanthropy opportunities. However, this is often not what other people believe NCL is about as there is a lot of controversy surrounding the league as a whole.

According to their website, NCL was founded in 1925 by a group of women led by Gladys Bernice Wilkinkson. They lived in Los Angeles and spent their free time making clothes for the American Red Cross or putting together food baskets for the hungry. These women called themselves The Charity League. 

However, due to World War II, this group had to be put on hold, but not before their name was registered with the state of California. After the war ended, they reorganized into different groups all around the country, therefore obtaining the name the National Charity League and becoming the first mother-daughter philanthropy organization in the nation.

Until recently, to join NCL, girls needed to apply in sixth grade, find a sponsor to get into the organization, and then have the board decide if they are a good fit or not. According to the NCL board, being a “good fit” for this league means that a girl has to be passionate about charity and willing to put in the work to benefit both their community and their grade level class. 

“The thing that bothers me about NCL is how, to get in, you have to be vetted or approved by someone already inside the organization so it makes it feel very restricted and exclusive,” said Emma Liu, my friend (‘27) who is not a member of NCL. This was the case up until this past year; however the process has now changed.

NCL recognizes its image as a very exclusive charity league so they are breaking away from that nationally to gain a more diverse group of girls. “NCL is no longer exclusive,” said Mrs. Jenna Wittkow, President of the NCL La Jolla Chapter. She explained that the mom and daughter pair submits their name to their chapter and at least thirty names are selected at random. This prevents biased decisions and is more fair to everyone. 

Unfortunately, NCL does not have the capacity to accept everyone. “If we took all applicants, then we wouldn’t have enough philanthropy events for everyone to fulfill their hours [15 hours per year]” said Ms. Jill Chang, Vice President of Philanthropy NCL La Jolla Chapter. They can only organize events for a certain number of people at a time.

This is the first year NCL is trying this application method, so they are still experimenting with how effective it is and if they can get a more unbiased selection of moms and daughters. However, every plan has a flaw. The flaw for this is that it is possible that a mother daughter pair might get turned away, depending on the number of people applying, although this has not happened. If it does, the chapter will send their names to a neighboring chapter with open spots to see if they can get in there. 

The policy about only being able to apply in sixth grade is implemented because NCL wants to facilitate bonding between the girlsover the six years together. Mrs. Wittkow said, “if we constantly have people coming in and out then that wouldn’t make a very cohesive grade of graduates.”

 Mrs. Wittkow gave an example about her experience and said, “Both my older daughters are still friends with girls that were in their NCL class and that’s because they got to know each other and have been close over six years and I’m close with all those moms as well.”

From previous conversations with a variety of people, there was one common misconception that many of them had: girls in NCL aren’t actually in the organization to do good. “I definitely think there are mothers and daughters who are in NCL just to say they’re in it. I think that’s sad and I would hope that over the six years that their minds would change and be in it for the right reason,” said Mrs. Wittkow, “it’s their loss for not taking advantage of everything that we offer.” 

“My favorite thing about NCL is being able to help others and how volunteering at certain places can really make me realize what is going on in the world for the people in need, along with getting to know other girls from other schools,” Kaleigh Whang, a freshman at La Jolla High, reflected. More specifically, Addison Simmons (‘27) said, “My favorite thing about NCL is doing community service with my friends. I especially like doing things with the Humane Society and Feeding San Diego.” These girls in NCL know the importance of charity and are willing to spend their weekends helping people who are less fortunate than themselves.

I think as long as I am the one who knows about problems in our community, it doesn’t matter how much other girls care. It’s so rewarding to see the work you have done over the past couple of months finally pay off.

An example of this is when I volunteer for Feeding San Diego. Usually, I go inside their warehouse and sort the produce. Many grocery stores donate the extra food to this organization so I am there to pick out the produce good enough to give to people. Last month, I saw the work that we have done finally pay off when I volunteered to distribute the produce. It made me so happy to see the food not going to waste and also feeding people who need it. This is why I think that philanthropy work has to come from within and the girls who don’t care won’t get anything out of it.

Another thing I hear people complain about is how is NCL a service organization when they host teas and other activities such as cultural events. “NCL is not strictly a philanthropy organization,” Mrs. Wittkow stated firmly. She explained that NCL is built on three pillars; leadership, culture, and philanthropy. 

These pillars are meant to help members grow together as mothers and daughters. “All of our opportunities are geared so that mothers can go with their daughters and spend time together,” Mrs. Wittkow said, “and part of leadership is etiquette. Going out to a nice lunch, writing thank you notes, presenting yourself well-dressed. These things will teach you girls how to become successful adults.” She also explained why these events were meaningful to her, and said, “I like the mother daughter events that we hold and do together because not very often do you get to go to a tea or a ball or something with just your mom and that’s kind of a special activity.”

A few of NCL’s bigger events include Senior Recognition (Senior Rec), Awards and Hours, and Senior Send Off. Most people think that these events don’t relate to charity at all, but they can be very meaningful. 

At Senior Rec, all of the senior girls dress up in white dresses to celebrate each other and  their moms. These seniors have done so much volunteer work for their chapter ranging from helping animals at the San Diego Humane Society to sorting food for The San Diego Food Bank so the purpose of this event is to thank and acknowledge them for all they have done, not just to walk down a runway in a white dress.

Awards and Hours is a high tea that has been in NCL for years. This event is to recognize all of the girls who have done a lot of charity in the past year. Girls will receive awards depending on the amount of hours they have. For example, the Yellow Rosebud award is given to girls who have completed 50 hours or more and the Heart of Gold award goes to girls who have completed at least 75 service hours.

Finally, Senior Send Off is almost like a big sob-fest for the chapter. The senior girls write a letter to their mom and read it on the stage, honoring them. This event makes everyone cry and is a way for the girls to say goodbye to the chapter and their mom.

Personally, I love our meetings and events because it gives me time to spend with my close friends in NCL, who aren’t all from Bishop’s and, of course, my mom. I especially love going to the cultural events with my NCL class because we have so much fun and get to learn together. For example, we have gone to an art museum in the past and learned about different art techniques from different cultures. 

Arguably one of the biggest complaint about NCL is the frustrating factor that one has to pay to be in the organization. The fee is $74 per year for the mother daughter pair. I understand this point: so where does the money go? The dues go to insurance because official organizations must carry insurance. The money also goes to philanthropy organizations. The La Jolla chapter uses the money for funding activities for the Autism Tree Project Foundation. One activity that we do with them is arts and crafts. Mrs. Wittkow said, “We use NCL money to buy supplies for the art projects.”

In addition, another common point people argue is that there is no meaning in having a philanthropy organization. “Why is there a league for charity? Shouldn’t everyone just do charity [on their own]?” questioned Kayley Xu (‘27). “It seems very superficial,” added Emma. People assume that girls are in NCL to meet the service hours requirements for their respective schools.

Additionally, a question that is commonly asked is ‘why NCL?’ What makes NCL different from just volunteering on your own? “In NCL, every philanthropy partner that we obtain has to meet our missions of growing mother daughter relationships, getting new cultural insights, and discovering leadership opportunities,” explained Ms. Chang. NCL can only partner with organizations that are non-profit. “We want our girls to actually go out there and serve the community,” she said. She then went on to explain why NCL has so many chapters, and said, “Every single chapter, in their own location, is serving their local community,” Ms. Chang stated, “and that’s what’s so important about NCL. We go out there to serve the community in the area we live in.” 

What do we say to these people who have false information about this wonderful organization? “Maybe we can invite them to senior rec with our tickets or something and show them how much fun we have!” Mrs. Wittkow joked. On a more serious note, she said, “maybe once they meet some of us and the moms who have been in it for a while, they will understand that that’s not what it’s really like.” 

I understand why all of these people think the things they think about NCL, but I’m here to tell you that they are all false. I hope that you will change your mind and be more understanding about this organization because I know that it can come off as exclusive, but we are trying to change that. If you’re interested to learn more about what we do, come talk to me, I’m happy to listen!

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About the Contributor
Madison Chen
Madison Chen, Staff Writer
Madison Chen is a freshman who is super excited to be a staff writer for The Tower this year. She was born in San Diego, CA and has a younger brother named Ethan who is 11 years old. Madison’s ideal meal would be sushi followed by a cold matcha frappe. Her favorite subject as of now is History and her favorite Disney/Pixar movie is Turning Red. Madison plays the cello and is looking forward to joining the Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra (MMYO).

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