Women of Charlottesville: Carla Hallman
“Just being involved is a really big step, just finding something that you’re passionate about, because passion is contagious and important.”
Carla Hallman is SheVille’s own local superhero — President of the Charlottesville Junior League, full-time Global Society Relations Coordinator at the Chartered Financial Analyst institute (CFA), Army veteran and first-time mom to a four-month old.
Carla first moved to Charlottesville 10 years ago, which makes the time she’s spent here the longest she’s remained in one place since she was a child — and she says it feels like home.
“I didn’t go to U.Va. or grow up here — Charlottesville to me was a duty station, but its become home. It’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere, I was a military brat, I was in the military, and I’m a military spouse, so having been here for this long is special to me.”
Having been here for a decade, she’s been a part of the local Junior League for 7 years.
The Junior League is a wholly volunteer-based organization comprised of women dedicated to helping other nonprofits in the area. Their mission is, according to their website, “promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving the community through effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.”
“It’s 100 percent — nuts to bolts — volunteer,” Carla explains.
She was inspired to join after she returned stateside from her third tour in Afghanistan, where she spent some of her spare time volunteering at a local hospital which served women and children injured by landmines leftover from the 1980’s.
She said she felt it was time to pick up volunteering again when she landed here. Ironically, Carla says she thought the Junior League would provide the perfect platform to springboard off of in order to find an organization she would stay with longterm.
“The League offers a whole conglomerate of things and I thought, ‘I’ll join it and see what I’m passionate about and then jump ship,’” Carla explains, ‘but it’s been seven years and I’m the president now. So that didn’t really work out.’”
Carla’s dedication to the League blossomed as she built a connection to other members, and learned not only about the needs of Charlottesville, but also how a nonprofit functions.
“I think from the League I learned so much about what is going on in Charlottesville,” Carla explains. “We have such great organizations who give grants and they have the power to make a really big impact on a financial and community scale, and there a lot of us who are smaller, doing things on the more local level.”
For the past several years, the Charlottesville Junior League has focused on partnering with and volunteering for nonprofits dedicated to improving literacy rates. Their two big partner organizations have been the Ronald McDonald House and the Boys and Girls Club’s Learning Circles.
Carla says being a part of the Learning Circles has been some of the most rewarding work she’s done. Members partnered with young girls in the Southwood and Cherry Avenue communities, acting as positive female role-models to help them develop confidence and skills.
“Seeing those girls grow up has been so fun,” Carla says.
Carla also mentioned that she’d personally like to see more nonprofit involvement focused on helping pre-teens and young teenagers.
“We have so many great minds in Charlottesville and with the University being so close, it can feel like ‘If I don’t get into U.Va., then what do I do?’ Pushing that forward projection and having mentorship for that demographic is something I really care about,” Carla says.
She stresses that finding one’s passions doesn’t have to occur within the four walls of the university — Charlottesville is a hotbed for diversity of thought, with potential inspiration around every turn.
“Just being involved is a really big step,” Carla says. “Just finding something that you’re passionate about, because passion is contagious and important.”
According to Carla, the Junior League has given her the chance to learn important skills about nonprofit management and also make friends and connections.
“I’ve learned so much about myself and my community and what I’m passionate about through the League.”
Members get the chance to not only learn from their experiences volunteering, but also one another. Members can attend different “trainings” put on by their fellow Leaguers — from calligraphy to how to properly grill a steak. The League also puts on talks which members are urged to attend, like a recent one detailing statistics and facts about poverty in the area.
But the Junior League hasn’t always had a reputation for being the diverse, progressive organization we now know it as. In its early days, the national Junior League consisted mainly of upper middle-class, white women who — while still active in their communities — were also heavily associated with things like debutante society and cookbooks.
“We haven’t written a cookbook since the 50’s — remember when everything was in a gelatin mold? That was the last time we did something like that,” Carla says.
In Charlottesville, the local Junior League chapter began as “The University League,” a group of professors’ wives and daughters who wanted to be active in the community. Since then, it has expanded beyond that limited circle.
But with the memory of their former selves in mind, the Junior League is determined to move forward, toward a future of and for inclusion. Carla says diversification and access to the League are some of the major focal points she’s determined to improve while president.
“This year we are doing a huge push for diversity inclusion and looking to where we can help bolster and diversify the League,” Carla said.
There’s no doubt that Carla and the Junior League are an important part of Charlottesville’s long history of women’s organizations not only creating a legacy of voluntarism, but also a network of women supporting one another and their community.
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