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Features - Posted January 26, 2018 9:22 a.m.
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Working Women

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After growing up in Amarillo and attending college at Texas A&M University, Amarillo native Trudy Keeling joined the workforce in San Antonio. A few years later, her work brought her back to her hometown, and the years away left her feeling like a stranger in Amarillo. “I was raised here,” says Keeling, who was single at the time. She still knew a lot of people, but all of them seemed to be her parents’ age. “I wasn’t new to town, but I needed an outlet to network and meet people.”

To meet that need, she joined the Junior League of Amarillo, a longstanding charitable women’s organization that promotes volunteerism in the community. “Initially, the draw for me was very much a social thing,” Keeling admits. Her mother, Paula Moore, had been a Junior League member. “I grew up hearing about it and watching her volunteer. She didn’t grow up around here and that was a great way for her to connect and meet people her age.” That the social aspect was attached to volunteer work in the community was icing on the cake.

Keeling spent the next nine years as an active member of the organization, including a stint serving as President in 2015-2016. “I was able to meet and work with women in all walks of life and all seasons of life that I’m quite positive I would not have come into contact with” apart from the Junior League, she says.

She notes that, in many cities across the country, the Junior League may be stereotyped as an organization for upper-income stay-at-home moms. That’s not the case in Amarillo. “The League today is not the Junior League of my mom’s or grandmother’s generation. It’s a wonderful group of women.”

According to current President Ginger Denney, who works full-time as the band instructor for Randall High School, the League has 125 active members and 530 sustaining members. “A year ago we did a survey of all our members to get a demographic idea of what we have,” she says. The survey showed that 85 percent of members were working women, with most employed full-time. “We have women who are mothers and women who are not. We have stay-at-home moms, lawyers, teachers, doctors, optometrists, business owners, fitness instructors – anything or anyone. Your next-door neighbor could be a member of the Junior League.”

Of course, the social-networking component of the League could be achieved with participation in any number of community organizations, from churches to recreational sports teams. Denney says the heart of the Junior League is its emphasis on volunteering. All active members are required to donate to the community an annual minimum of 50 hours of volunteer work.

“Our big focus area is generational poverty and trying to put a stop to it, or break the cycle of generational poverty,” she says. “All our projects and funds are going towards that.”

Every year, the League provides around $30,000 in community assistance fund grants and other fundraising. These small grants might span from putting tires on a van for a charitable organization to providing computers for after-school programs. “Through our projects and volunteer hours, we help provide things to help those who want it and need it to better themselves, and maybe have a better life for their kids and become great members of our community,” says Denney.

Currently, League members’ volunteer hours are divided among five external organizations: the Amarillo College No Excuses Poverty Initiative, Heal the City, The Hope and Healing Place, Square Mile Community Development, and the San Jacinto Elementary Success Program. A sixth organization, the Medical Center League House, remains its signature project. Similar in purpose to the Ronald McDonald House but focused on serving adults, the League House provides housing and support for families of patients undergoing medical treatments in Amarillo. The 31-room, 16,000-square-foot hospitality house opened in 2010. “It’s a really, really special project,” says Keeling.

She explains that the largest role the Junior League plays in Amarillo remains behind the scenes. “We put trained volunteers into the community,” Keeling says. “While we have some incredible, hands-on projects we work with throughout the year and we fund raise and provide grants, the way we fulfill our mission is with volunteers.”

The Junior League gives its volunteers exposure to a variety of organizations. “That’s the one thing that really surprised me about my League experience,” says Keeling. “Going into it, I felt like I had a good understanding of our community, but it was incredible all the different organizations I was exposed to – and also the opportunity to learn about what needs we have in Amarillo.” She says being able to volunteer in so many different places was eye-opening.

While fulfilling those volunteer hours, members are expected to take fundraising and leadership roles within the League itself. These are for the benefit of the League rather than the community, but Keeling says that’s intentional. “[Women] gain experience and knowledge and our hope is that they take that knowledge – and the skills that come with it – and go and put them to use with another organization,” she says. Keeling always loved seeing her fellow members start volunteering outside the organization, putting those learned abilities to work serving on a nonprofit board or guiding a fundraiser.

Denney, the current President, agrees. “There aren’t a lot of organizations that provide you with leadership training that you can take back into your workplace and family,” she says. “If you’re looking to meet like-minded professional women who want to make our community better and learn some leadership skills in the process, this is a great organization to be in.”

Beyond the volunteer work, Junior Leagues in communities across the United States are known for their cookbooks. Compiled from the kitchens of its members, these cookbooks are sold as one of the primary fundraisers for the organization. Amarillo’s chapter is no different. It currently sells two cookbooks – a recent publication called “Beyond the Rim: A Taste of Amarillo” as well as a reprint of a popular 1979 cookbook. Both are available to purchase from jlamarillo.org.

The organization was generous enough to share a few of the most popular recipes from “Beyond the Rim” with us for this issue. Including family-oriented staples like creamy tomato soup, spicy beef brisket, German sugar cookies and cinnamon rolls, these are classic, no-frills dishes. Like most family recipes, they’re kitchen-tested and not too difficult to follow. Best of all, they’re delicious regardless of the season. Enjoy!


Creamy Roma Tomato Basil Soup
12 Roma tomatoes, peeled, or 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
3 cups tomato juice
2 cups chicken broth
15 fresh basil leaves
1 ½ cups heavy cream
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste

Combine tomatoes, tomato juice, and chicken broth in large saucepan over low heat. Simmer tomato mixture for 30 minutes. Add basil. Remove from heat, cool slightly, and transfer back to burner over low heat. Whisk in cream and butter. Add salt and pepper. Whisk until butter is melted and soup is heated through. Garnish with cheese.

Note: To peel fresh tomatoes, bring large pot of water to a boil. Add tomatoes for 2 to 3 minutes, then remove. The skins should slip off.

Makes 8 servings


Fresh Tomato Tart
1/8 teaspoon thyme
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 unbaked (9-inch) pie shell
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Gruyere cheese
6 tomatoes
1/8 teaspoon thyme
1/8 teaspoon oregano
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Press thyme and pepper into pie shell. Bake shell at 375 degrees for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Spread cheese evenly over bottom of pie shell. Slice tomatoes and arrange over cheese, overlapping to cover completely. Sprinkle with additional thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper. Top with parsley and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature, or refrigerate and serve chilled.

Makes 6 servings


Spicy Beef Brisket
1 (4- to-5 pound) beef brisket
2 tablespoons liquid smoke
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon cracked pepper

Make paste of liquid smoke and celery, onion and garlic salts. Rub into brisket. Wrap with heavy-duty foil and seal tightly. Refrigerate overnight. The next day, sprinkle with Worcestershire sauce and pepper. Reseal carefully and bake in 250-degree oven for 5 hours. Slice thinly. Serve on rye bread or buns. Good with cole slaw. Reheats well in sauce.

Makes 6 to 8 servings


Grilled Honey Chicken
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup sherry
¼ cup honey
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 (2 to 2 ½ pounds each) broiler fryers, cut up

Combine first seven ingredients. Cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Place chicken in shallow pan and cover with sauce. Marinate 15 minutes. Place chicken, skin side up on grill. Cook 1 hour or until tender. Turn and baste often. If using deboned chicken, cooking time will be shorter.

Makes 4 servings


German Sugar Cookies
1 cup sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup cooking oil
1 cup butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda

Beat together sugars, oil and butter. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix in flour, cream of tartar, and baking soda. Chill at least 6 hours. Roll into marble-size balls, and place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Flatten with bottom of glass dipped in sugar. Sprinkle more sugar on top. Bake in 350-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

Makes 12 dozen cookies


Citrus Cake
1 ¼ cups sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 egg
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/3 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt

Cream sugar and butter in mixing bowl until light. Beat in egg. Add buttermilk, orange zest, orange juice, and lemon juice; mix well. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in bowl and stir into citrus mixture. Pour into greased and floured 9- by 13-inch cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake tests done. Frost with Citrus Frosting while still warm.

Makes 15 servings

Citrus Frosting
1 ½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
½ teaspoon grated orange zest
1 tablespoon orange juice
¼ teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Dash salt
Beat confectioners’ sugar, butter, orange zest, orange juice, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt in mixing bowl until smooth.


Refrigerator Cinnamon Rolls
6 ½ cups flour, divided
½ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 envelopes dry yeast
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 ½ cups very hot water
2 eggs, beaten
Melted butter
Cinnamon sugar
Brown sugar (optional)
Chopped pecans (optional)

Mix 2 cups flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in mixing bowl. Add butter. Gradually add hot water and beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs and ½ cup flour, and beat at high speed for 2 minutes. Stir in 3 to 4 cups flour to form soft dough. Turn dough onto lightly floured board and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, or until smooth. Cover dough and let rest for 20 minutes. Divide dough in half. Using rolling pin, roll each half into a ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Spread with melted butter, cinnamon sugar, brown sugar, and pecans. Roll as for a jelly roll. Pinch edges to seal. Place long piece of thread under each roll, cross ends over the top and tighten to cut into 1 ½-inch-thick slices. Place slices in greased 10- by 15-inch baking pan. Cover dough and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator 10 minutes before baking. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Note: Frost with confectioners’ sugar glaze if desired.

Makes 30 to 36 rolls

by Jason Boyett

Jason has written more than a dozen books and is the host and creator of “Hey Amarillo”, a local interview podcast. Visit heyamarillo.com and jasonboyett.com.
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