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Taking Action Together

Member Profile

Written by Lauren Hunsberger

Photography by Taryn Emerick

As young girls, Taylor Johnson and Sara Bowar began participating in community service with their moms, Marilyn Johnson and Diana Bowar. They are all members of the National Charity League (NCL), Inc., a mother-daughter focused non-profit organization that provides service opportunities to local philanthropies. As a six-year journey, it has become an unexpectedly rewarding lifestyle for all four women, and now they encourage others to do the same.

The NCL has 270 chapters across the country and holds the following three pillars as their foundation: community service, leadership development and cultural experiences. The girls and mothers of the Emerald City chapter use these guidelines to serve roughly 20 local philanthropies, all while learning life and leadership skills along the way.

The group volunteers for both large organizations, like Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, as well as small, privately run operations. Currently, they are working with a range of groups, including the National and Washington Special Olympics, Mountains to Sound Greenway, Jubilee Reach, Birthday Dreams, Bellevue Arts Museum, Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild and The Ruby Room, which helps underprivileged kids obtain homecoming dresses, and many more.

“Seeing your daughter in those environments just touches your heart,” Marilyn says. “And it gives our girls so many different kinds of opportunities to give back.”

“They love it, and it’s become a part of who they are and what they do,” Diana says. “It’s not a matter of if they’re going to do something, but what are they going to do.”

Currently, Taylor is a senior at Bellevue High School and Sara a junior. At this point, the girls are organizing charitable events, running committees and holding meetings on their own, which they say are important skills they will use as they prepare for college and professional lives.

But, the experience also gave them an avenue to build character—strengthening empathy, compassion and a sense of responsibility for those in the community who have less than them.

“Watching them handle situations and interact with people who don’t have as much luck in their life means everything,” Diana says. “It’s shown them they can make an impact right in their backyards.”

Marilyn and Diana also lead by example. This year, they are co-presidents of the chapter, and say it’s been an incredible experience. There is the obvious service piece, but it also brought them closer to their daughters in a way nothing else could.

“That’s one of the best things, the conversation that comes up. Some of our best conversations are in the car after we volunteer,” Marilyn says.

“It’s mainly moms and daughter just doing amazing things,” Diana says.

Sara Bowar | Junior, Bellevue High School

Why did you choose to get involved with the National Charity League (NCL)?
We were new to Bellevue High School, and I had been encouraged by some friends to join as it is a great way to meet new people and find volunteer opportunities to get your community service hours that are required for graduation.

What does being a philanthropist mean to you? 
Getting out of your comfort zone while helping out people who need help in our local community.

What lessons have you learned throughout your years with NCL? 
Teamwork, leadership, communication, life preparation, cultural enrichment and college readiness

Are there any special moments working with the NCL that stand out to you? 
Getting to meet some of my best friends and in the process having fun volunteering together

How has it affected the relationship with your mom? What about your peers? 
My mom and I have a ton of fun going to different events and getting to meet other moms and daughters in our chapter.

Do you have any advice for your peers who might want to get more involved with charities or the NCL? 
If you’re thinking about joining, I encourage you to do it. You have the chance to find different philanthropies that you might not have been exposed to as our chapter has 20 different philanthropies that we support. It’s a great way to give back to our community while meeting good people and building deeper relationships with the girls in your class and chapter! 

Taylor Johnson | Senior, Bellevue High School

Why did you choose to get involved with the National Charity League (NCL)? 
When I first started NCL, I was in 7th grade. I started because my mom wanted me to, and I thought it would be a fun volunteer service to do with my friends. I didn’t know NCL would become such a big part of my life, but I’m so glad I am a part of it.  

What does being a philanthropist mean to you? 
To me, being a philanthropist means doing something for the greater good. It means putting others before yourself and seeing the big picture while also focusing on the details. I can now see the world from new and unique perspectives.  

What lessons have you learned throughout your years with NCL? 
I have progressed my communication skills, public speaking skills, and leadership skills through NCL. As a lead representative for NCL, I must take initiative while also encouraging and inspiring others. Being a leader has strengthened my perspective on various topics as well as c

ommunication tactics. I’ve worked with numerous people ranging from peers to the owners of large organizations such as Jubilee Reach, Sophia’s Way, and YWCA. Being a leader has allowed me to learn more about philanthropic services and cultural awareness that I implement in other parts of my life as well.  

Are there any special moments working with the NCL that stand out to you? 
There are many moments during my time with NCL that have been favorites. Organizing the Easter, Halloween, and Valentine’s day parties for the kids at Jubilee reach is always super fun and I love seeing how happy the kids are when they get there.  

How has it affected the relationship with your mom? What about your peers? 
As a class, we have grown closer over the years in NCL. We all have fun doing philanthropy, culture, and bonding events and we have become responsible, accountable, proactive, and enthusiastic as a class. My relationship with my mom has strengthened due to NCL. We have volunteered together for at least 30 hours every year and have our favorite charities that we like to volunteer at. I’ve grown up doing NCL with my mom, and I will miss it next year.  

Do you have any advice for your peers who might want to get more involved with charities or the NCL? 
 To be as involved as you can with NCL. Figure out which charities and philanthropies you like volunteering at the best and try your best to be on the board for your class—it’s fun and a great way to learn and develop leadership skills and experience. •

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