By Emily Glory Peters
The course toward (and through) adulthood never did run smooth, especially where community is concerned. Some studies have posited that making friends is harder as you get older—and one could argue the same follows for making a social impact for the better.
“I was born in Pasadena and grew up in Arcadia, but I’ve lived all over Los Angeles. When I moved to the West Side, I realized I would have to make more friends because no one wanted to drive that far!” laughs Erin Scott, president of the Pasadena Junior Chamber of Commerce, or the “Jaycees” for short. Scott’s in Los Feliz now, but that need for community stuck with him, making the Pasadena Jaycees an ideal fit.
“The Jaycees actually started in the 1920s as a men-only group meant to be a positive force in the community,” says Scott, “which is funny to me now, because I don’t know how anything got done before women joined.” Scott himself joined several years back when an old friend had him tag along for one of the Jaycees popular mixers—and while social connection is a big part of the Jaycees appeal, volunteering helps members really put down roots in their community. This, to Scott, is a learned skill.
“For some young adults, the volunteer aspect doesn’t seem to exist—even I tried to avoid anything until I was about 34. There’s a culture now that’s a bit fatalistic: nothing matters, government can’t be trusted, society is a bunch of bull, etc.” he says. “The creed of the Jaycees is opposite of that. It feels good to go out and help people.”
So what do the Pasadena Jaycees do? Anything and everything that serves the community. They’re active with at-risk youth around town, hosting regular events for foster children living at local group home Five Acres; their Operation Santa outfit (in effect since 1929) gathers Jaycees to hand-deliver toys and grant holiday wishes for kids and families in the area; and every Thanksgiving they partner with Friends in Deed food bank and women’s shelter to provide low-income families with all the fixings for a celebratory meal. But work of the Jaycees tribe isn’t limited just to Pasadena.
“The Jaycees program is actually international. In 1985 we started a cultural exchange program with the Jaycees in Kasukabe, Japan—we go every other year, and they come to us every other year,” Scott explains. “I went in 2016 and the hospitality they showed us was mind-boggling, so when they came to us, I knew I had to show them a good time. It’s an awesome way to promote good cross-cultural relations and learn about others.”
The group, in fact, returned this week from their latest excursion to Japan, but there are more events around the corner. Regular mixers (frequently held at the now defunct Pop Champagne Bar, RIP) held on the third Wednesday of the month draw a substantial number of attendees; normally a blend of area natives and out-of-towners looking for that elusive conduit to adult friendship.
Members, of course, come and go as their own journeys lead them down different paths. Still, with 90 years of being a tribe-building force for good, the Pasadena Jaycees are pretty solid at giving those “declining friendship” studies a run for their money.
“Being part of the Jaycees has helped changed my idea of what fun is, gave it more meaning. And I’ve made some really good friends in the process,” says Scott. “Come to a mixer; say hi, have a drink, stay as long as you want. Come see if it’s a group of people you can vibe with.”