The Jaycees were founded October 13, 1915 at the Mission Inn in St. Louis Missouri by Henry “Hy” Giessenbier Jr. (1892-1935). He gathered 32 young men together and agreed to form the Young Men’s Progressive Civic Association (YMPCA) believing they could develop their skills as leaders by tackling tough civic issues. In 1916 the YMPCA changed its name to the Junior Citizens at the request of an early benefactor and in 1918, the Junior Citizens affiliated themselves with the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce.
After World War I a plan was made to form a national organization. This plan (referred to as the “St. Louis Plan”) gathered 29 organizations from around the country in January of 1920. Soon after, the Junior Chamber would begin to have a lasting effect at the local and national level. One of the Junior Chamber’s earliest accomplishments was its role in the construction and development of airport facilities and the development of regular air mail service.
During the thirties, the organization snowballed to almost seven hundred chapters, a new constitution was adopted, an official seal was designed, and the Distinguished Service Awards were established. The United States Junior Chamber of Commerce also started the 10 outstanding Young Men recognition program (now known as 10 Outstanding Young Americans.) In the forties more than 85% of the membership was fighting World War II. Local chapters conducted scrap drives, sold war bonds and assisted USO chapters in the war effort. Despite the attention given to the war, The Junior Chamber was established in other countries during a 1944 meeting in Mexico City. Today more than 100 countries are involved in Junior Chamber International (JCI).
For the next several decades, the Junior Chamber continued to be an important national player. In the 50’s the Jaycees crusaded for Alaskan statehood along with Hawaii. Programs that are still in existence today were started by the Jaycees during this period and the organization continued its efforts to benefit its members and communities through positive action. In 1984, the Jaycees became a coed organization and in 1987 the age limit was changed to 21-39, expanding opportunities to even more people. Continuing throughout the eighties, nineties, and into today, they continued to support chosen charities such as American Olympic athletes, raising funds to fight muscular dystrophy, political concerns, community development, and helping the homeless and the hungry.
The Jaycees continue to grow and change. As each new young adult gains membership, they are in their own right growing and developing, preparing new and unique ideas as times change and things happen. The Junior Chamber is a unique organization, getting better and stronger with each passing year.
History of the Chapter
The Richmond chapter is the oldest chapter in the Capital Region and the Second oldest chapter in the State. It has been serving the Richmond metro area since May of 1936.
Throughout the years the Richmond chapter has had many accomplishments and made many improvements in the local community. The chapter is responsible for founding Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Richmond, helping to bring the Special Olympics to the Commonwealth of Virginia, founding the Richmond Christmas Parade, expanding and helping to manage Project WARM (with Tuckahoe of course), and has also started a Beach Music Festival, built some parks and playgrounds, s well as conducting many other projects.
Like all Jaycees chapters, Richmond is focused on providing leadership training with a focus on community development. We are always looking for new and exciting project and training ideas!