Mothers and Daughters Find Ways to Connect through Charity

Jullie Otto and her daughter, Lauren.

When the Emlong family moved to Maple Grove from Denver in 2015, their to-do list started a lot like most families, except that right after getting settled in a new home, school and finding a doctor, there was another necessity on the list—joining a chapter of the National Charity League (NCL). Mom Lori Anne Emlong is a longtime member of the NCL—a national philanthropic organization that started in 1925 with women making layettes and gathering food for the hungry for holidays to support the work of the American Red Cross in Los Angeles. More than  90 years later, there are 63,000 members in 240 chapters who volunteer over a million hours each year.

Besides supporting the work of local charities, the NCL is about building a key relationship: the one between mothers and their daughters. In a new community, Lori Anne knew that NCL involvement would be a great way for her daughter Lily, now a junior and die-hard volleyball player at Wayzata High School, to get to know others while building her confidence and having a positive impact on her community. And in the age of smartphones and jam-packed schedules, it would also be a welcome opportunity for the Emlong women to connect in an intentional way.

“The years go by so quickly, and Lily is our youngest. This is a great way to have dedicated time with her,” Lori Ann says. “And as a parent, this is really also about keeping kids involved and not stagnant. Lily thrives on activity and structure, and this is a way to instill values in our daughters now, which will hopefully make an impact throughout their adult lives.”

The Emlongs began with the West Lakes Chapter, but saw an opportunity to make an even greater impact alongside the women they see on a regular basis. Lori Anne and Lily started talking up their NCL involvement with other families—some from the Wayzata volleyball team—and soon had an additional seven Patronesses (moms) and Ticktockers (daughters) from the Class of 2020 interested in joining. They launched the 239th chapter, North Woods, which has grown to about 80 members, who live or attend school in Maple Grove, Plymouth, Wayzata and the northwest suburbs of Minneapolis.

Just like other chapters, they focus on leadership development, cultural experiences and philanthropic service through local partnerships. At every turn, young women are given opportunities to advocate for themselves and others . They weigh in on decisions and contribute
service hours to their favorite causes.

For Lily, working directly with people—be it awarding medals to Special Olympics bowling tournament winners or providing food for less fortunate families—has given her a new perspective on her community and a deeper appreciation for the opportunities she has in her own life.

“I spend lots of time with my volleyball team, but I really love getting to spend time with my mom and impacting our community together,” Lily says.

North Woods Chapter Vice President of Communications Andie Helmich is one of the women who’s been on board since the launch of North Woods, and she’s loved watching the group blossom. “Our mother/daughter members serve in many ways around Minneapolis, including cooking meals for Ronald McDonald House families, scorekeeping at Special Olympics bowling tournaments, voluntereing with the Interfaith Outreach's  food bank and in many more roles,” she says.

“This is a great thing to do with my daughter,” says Julie Otto, whose daughter Lauren is a sophomore at Wayzata High School. So far, the pair from Plymouth has assisted with food drives for Interfaith Outreach, the Polar Plunge and the Unified Dance Marathon for the Special Olympics. “It’s a way for us to connect and it’s purposeful,” she says.

North Woods Chapter meetings rotate between Wayzata, Plymouth, Maple Grove, Hamel and Medina. To get involved, email