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LLL at Chapter Meetings

Sylvia Mitchell
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 34 No. 4, August-September 1998, p. 74

Chapter Meetings started in my home city years before I became a La Leche League Leader. They are one of my favorite "extra" meetings. After faithfully attending, first as a Leader Applicant for almost a year, then as a Leader for more than 15 years now, I've come to realize that the three Ls stand for more than La Leche League. Love, Learning and Laughter are at the heart of the meetings!

At our Chapter Meetings, Leaders and Leader Applicants from six neighboring Groups come together for two or three hours during a morning, afternoon or an occasional evening. We meet once a month except for the busy months of July and August. Our purpose is to allow an opportunity to discuss Leader concerns, Group management, enrichment topics and Area procedures or events as well as support each other in the work we do. Our Chapter charter is simple. Using the prepared year's schedule we start on time, introduce ourselves in the round-robin style, make necessary announcements, conduct business, participate in the enrichment topic, enjoy potluck refreshments and help tidy up before leaving.

The Chapter Chairperson (Chapter Leader) starts the meeting by asking the hostess to let us know the house rules. Continuing with introductions, Leaders and Applicants give a brief description of their Groups and any special activities they are planning (Couples Meetings, Toddler Meetings, garage or bake sales). Leaders holding Area or other LLL positions share a little about their extended Leader work. Newcomers - new Applicants or visiting Leaders-are warmly welcomed. Newly accredited Leaders are recognized, receiving our congratulatory sentiments. Sometimes a toddler or young child will join in the announcements "announcing" his need for mother's presence, a cuddle or nursing. During these introductory moments we support each other's commitment to La Leche League. Our Love of leadership is demonstrated to Leader Applicants and our fellow Leaders.

Learning comes naturally throughout the meeting but especially during the business and enrichment portions. Joint Group orders are made; Area, National or International events are highlighted. Sometimes a Leader may request help from her peers on how to help a mother with a particular breastfeeding problem. The situation is described (confidentiality respected) and we brainstorm together, offering tips, resource material and sharing experiences. Several times I've seen a Leader's furrowed brow of concern take on a more relaxed look when she learns of a new approach or perspective.

During the enrichment portion of the meeting we are truly enriched through the wide variety of topics presented from book reviews to discussions on sibling rivalry, tandem nursing, stages of childhood development or postpartum depression. The session speaker may use a detailed outline, complete with handouts (appropriately approved), slides or videos. Most often though, the topic is presented from a simple outline on an index card. One or two prepared questions get everyone participating in the discussion.

At one of our enrichment sessions a Leader shared a brief LLL public service announcement video tape being aired on national television in Canada. Then we were shown slides from the outreach she was doing in remote rural communities. We learned a lot from listening and seeing the many challenges she faced while working with mothers in a different culture who had little breastfeeding information or support in their community.

Another time a representative from the Leader Accreditation Department (LAD) presented "Attracting Mothers to Leadership." We learned about the value of holding Planning/Evaluation Meetings, involving members in Group tasks and that a smiling Leader could interest mothers in leadership! In the spirit of fun, Leaders were given a wire hanger half covered in pretty blue and white ribbon braid as an incentive to look for possible Applicants. It was explained that when a Group attracted a mother to apply for leadership, the braiding around the remaining half would be completed and the hanger would become a special thank-you gift for fulfilling the basic Leader responsibility, "takes an active role in helping other mothers find out about leadership and helps them prepare to become LLL Leaders" (LEADER'S HANDBOOK pages 4, 229, 245). Since then several hangers have become a finished craft. We're especially happy to meet and greet new Leader Applicants at our Chapter Meetings.

One time the enrichment topic wasn't designated on the Chapter schedule. The session remained "open" and required little preparation. Free to bring up points of personal interest, we talked about recent changes in Area positions, successful fundraisers, outreach at a local baby fair and a sample issue of LLLI ALUMNAE NEWS. We exchanged ideas and resources, learning from each other as each topic was introduced. It was one of my favorite Chapter Meetings.

As each Chapter Meeting draws to a close, I realize just how much I have learned through the help of my peers. Our love of leadership overlaps many times with our love of learning and we are immeasurably enriched from having come together.

Refreshment time is where Laughter usually heard the loudest. Over freshly cut fruit and vegetables or sometimes baked goodies, we snack together in a socializing atmosphere. Sweet expressions from the young babies and cute antics from the toddlers bring out smiles or tears of laughter. In recent years, three Leader applicants received their accreditation during the refreshment portion of our meeting - a special treat indeed. We were quick to toast each accomplishment with a glass of juice!

Tidying up isn't a chore; we pitch in together. In a few minutes the toy- filled room is orderly once again. Farewells are exchanged and we leave feeling rejuvenated, inspired and smiling.

Love, Learning and Laughter overlap many times throughout each part of our Chapter Meetings. Come to think of it, these three Ls seem to overlap at all LLL gatherings!

Recently both Winnipeg Chapters were experiencing low attendance at Chapter Meetings. Something had to be done before this valuable Leader resource was lost. At a combined Chapter Meeting picnic in a park, we met to talk about merging the two Chapters. Two enthusiastic Leader Applicants teamed up with two experienced Leaders to arrange a new schedule and inform everyone about the revitalization. Since then we have been meeting regularly and sharing Love, Learning and Laughter.

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