Mothers and Daughters Find Ways to Connect through Charity

Lori Anneand Lily Emlong

When the Emlong family moved to Maple Grove from Denver in 2015, their to-do list started out like any family’s would. Except right after "get settled in a new home and school" and "find a doctor," another necessity was on the list—"join a chapter of the National Charity League (NCL)."

Mom Lori Anne is a longtime member of the NCL—a national philanthropic organization that started in 1925 with women making layettes and feeding the hungry with the American Red Cross in Los Angeles. Over 90 years later, there are 63,000 members (in 240 chapters) volunteering 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 NCL involvement would be a great way for her daughter Lily, now a sophomore and die-hard volleyball player at Wayzata High School, to get to know others while building her confidence and making 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 started attending 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—mostly from the Wayzata volleyball team—and soon had seven Patronesses (moms) and Ticktockers (daughters) from the Class of 2020 interested in joining. They went through the process of launching the 239th chapter, North Woods, which has grown to 75 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, weighing in on decisions and committing service hours to their favorite causes. For Lily, working directly with people—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’ve realized poverty isn’t just in downtown Minneapolis,” Lily says.

“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. It’s so great to have the opportunity to give back to people, who don’t have the same opportunities that I do.”

North Woods Chapter vice president for 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 the Ronald McDonald House families, scorekeeping at Special Olympics bowling tournaments, serving at the food bank for Interfaith Outreach and so many more,” she says. “These women and their daughters are truly making an impact on our community—together.”

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