Junior League of Champaign-Urbana, Women building better communities

Member Profiles

Denise Bates

Active Member
Current Placement: President

Hometown: Park Ridge, Illinois

Education: Undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Law Degree from Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Career Information
Industry:
 Legal

Currently a Partner in the law firm of Thomas, Mamer & Haughey, LLP in Champaign

Family Life:

Married

2 Children

Currently reside in Champaign

Other Community/Organizational Involvement:

President of the Eastern Illinois Estate Planning Council

Hobbies:

Boating, Running, Traveling

Why I joined Junior League:

When I joined the Junior League, I had just moved back to the area from spending 3 years in law school.  My goal was to find a way to meet new people, learn about the community, and find a way to volunteer in order to help the community.  The Junior League helped me accomplish my goal.

Why I continue my involvement with Junior League:

I have now been a member of the Junior League for over 10 years.  During that time, I have been very proud to see our organization continue to grow.  I am amazed by the way we touch the community.  I am so proud of the things that we have accomplished over the more than 80 years that we have been in this community.  Junior League helped to start the Developmental Services Center, the Krannert Docent Program, and the Food for Families and Backpack Buddies programs with the partnership of the Eastern Illinois Foodbank.  We created Junior League Locker that has supplied more than 400,000 in school supplies to the community.  With Issue Based Community Impact, the Junior League has narrowed its current focus to meeting basic needs for school readiness.  Our goal is to make sure that the children in our community are ready to learn when they go to school.  Within our new focus area, we are launching our new project, Junior League Bright Starts, this Fall.  I cannot wait to see how this new project impacts the community.  I believe in the work that we do for this community and I enjoy working and volunteering with dedicated and inspiring women that I get the privilege of interacting with on a daily basis. 

My favorite Junior League memory is:

I cannot name just one memory!  There have been too many over my 10 years in league.  Volunteering at Camp Healing Heart, a camp for kids who have lost loved ones to cancer, during their carnival my first couple of active years was so rewarding.  Getting a chance to interact with the kids who have experienced loss and see pure joy as they played the carnival games was a memory that I will never forget.  Also, I really enjoyed every time that I volunteered to stuff bags of food at the Eastern Illinois Foodbank for our Backpack Buddies Project.  Watching our Backpack Buddies project start as a pilot project in the Champaign-Urbana area and being a part of League when the program grew so exponentially to all the surrounding communities that the Illinois Foodbank took it over exclusively in 2013 was amazing.  Finally, being at the meeting the night that we named our new project, Junior League Bright Starts, was great.  I know the hard work, dedication, drive that it took our members to get this project defined, organized and launched.  I was excited to be a part of the process to have the project named. 

How the Junior League has changed me or my life:

When I joined League I was a young married professional in this Community.  I did not know the kind of impact Junior League would have on my life.  I am now a mom of two and I am so proud to be a member of this organization.  The Junior League has provided me with a way to not only help better the community but also, help better me personally and professionally.  Part of our Mission is to develop the potential of women.  Junior League has developed my potential.  I have had the opportunity to attend amazing AJLI Conferences all over the country.   I have been blessed through those conferences to have also met women all over the country who are inspiring in their efforts to help improve their communities. I have met amazing women that I know that I will call lifelong friends.  I could not think of a better organization to have helped me meet my goal.


Heather Vazquez

Active Member
Current Placement: President Elect

Hometown: Edison, NJ

Education: Bachelors, University of Maryland, College Park  and Master, Politics, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC

Career Information
Industry:
 Fundraising for the University of Illinois, School of Labor and Employment Relation

Family Life: Married for almost 12 years to Lucio, a teacher at Holy Cross Elementary School. Our son, Jack is 10 in August. We have lived in Champaign since 2005, moving from Washington, DC, where we met in 1997.

Other Community/Organizational Involvement:

Barkstall PTA Executive Board member and past president

Champaign HEAT Swim team, Hospitality volunteer/Team photographer

Clark Park Neighborhood Group - event organizer (past)

Hobbies:

Being with my family and friends, working out, traveling, driving to swim events in the wee dark hours and a pretty severe addiction to Netflix on my IPad.

Why I joined Junior League: I wanted to make friends! Sure, I was interested in helping people, making connections, focused on our community but at the end of the day, I was ready to meet people and make some new friends.  

Why I continue my involvement with Junior League: A proud east coaster, I can say confidently the Junior League of Champaign Urbana made Champaign a home for our family. Many of the people whom I am closest to now I met through JLCU. In addition, coming to understand the areas of need in our community, many of which I didn't know  a thing about - and then being able to see the impact JLCU was making, is a source of tremendous pride.  I adore the notion that women working together can change outcomes for their community  and for themselves.  I am prouder even still that JLCU and AJLI invite women to consider where they might need to grow personally, and to accept the challenge.

My favorite Junior League memory is: There are a couple that come to mind, but two jump out. I can still hear past-president Jen Pararstaran accepting an award and telling us about the students at her children's school who were picked up by a taxi everyday, because they were homeless and they didn't know at the end of each day where they would sleep that night. That level of insecurity day to day would unravel most people. Everything a community organization like JLCU does is for people like this. It was the moment I decided I wanted to be a leader in JLCU.

The other was a note I received at our son's school. A past project, Music Scholarships, had helped put an instrument in a student's hands who wanted to be a member of the Barkstall Elementary School Band but didn't have the means to rent an instrument.  A quick email from a principal got the ball rolling and within 48 hours JLCU had arranged for this 5th grader to have an instrument. In his note, he thanked me and Junior League for helping him get a instrument to rent and inviting me to come to his recital at the end of the year so I could hear how he improved. 

How the Junior League has changed me or my life: Eight years ago, becoming president-elect of JLCU was not on my radar. I am someone who loves to talk with people, but almost never with a microphone. Recently, our son came home and told me "Hey, they talked about Junior League at school today and my friend looked at me and said, "hey, that's your mom!"  I am immensely proud to be associated with this global organization whose mission includes "developing the potential in women" but for me, having our son know what I do as a volunteer is just about perfect.