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Monday, December 16, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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About Town

Junior League Christmas Party Is A Showcase Of Diversity

In what was the most traditional of all Junior League of Seattle activities during the year, the annual Christmas party gathered 420 last week: for lunch, for a Helen's Of Course fashion show, and to honor Suzanne F. Lile, winner of the Dorothy Bullitt Community Service Award.

Looking around the Spanish Ballroom of the Four Seasons Olympic Hotel, what struck me about the Junior League was the signs of emerging diversity.

There were women from the suburbs and women from uptown, women from the gala circuit and women from the day-care circuit.

Membership has changed over the years. While members used to be phased out at 40, the membership age limit is now at 50, and even that level is expected to fall, according to Cathi Lindstrom, league president. Women working outside the home make up 65 percent of the membership.

It's not a league for Stepford Wives.

It is a league that requires members to commit time to volunteerism. It's the backbone of Childhaven and King County Kids in Court, and it solely operates the Wise Penny Thrift Shop, among many other projects.

Lile, members say, personifies the best of Junior Leaguers. She serves on Children's Hospital's board of trustees, is a member of the Seattle Foundation, and is a board member of the YWCA, the United Way and many other nonprofits.

So, come time for the awards, Lile received a standing ovation.

"She has the grace, charm and humor that can put at ease either

the major donor or the hospital nurse receiving a 10-year pin," said Treuman Katz, chief executive officer of Children's Hospital.

Then it was on with the show.

Jeri Rice introduced an impressive array of Ungaro fashions, which just happened to be 50 percent off at her shop.

There was a brewing stampede.

Depending on your table, there were two main categories of talk that afternoon: the Ungaro sale and where you can buy that line, and the holiday plans they'd be great for.

At my table, Jackie Fluke, Toni Richmond and Diane Kuenster set plans for their joint family ski trip to Vail for New Year's, not to mention a few festive holiday lunches with friends in between.

As the last model slipped from the runway with a toss of a skirt, the hoard in the ballroom descended on the valets.

Social worker Winona Hauge was there, wrapped in a fur and waiting for her Mercedes. She applauded the diversification of the league.

"There is a lot of growth and development going on and they're committed to building the ranks of the organization in a diverse way," she said. She said a Junior League-Links charitable joint effort is in the planning stage.

"We think there is strength in numbers. Human needs are so great the more forces you can gather, the better for everyone. Volunteer efforts know no color."

ARCS MEET: Slides of less-than-pink, princess-perfect ballerina feet preceded the shrimp-and-chicken-salad luncheon at the Sunset Club for the December meeting of ARCS, the women's group devoted to raising money for University of Washington graduate students in science.

In keeping with other ARCS gatherings, the topic was scientific in nature. The guest speaker: Dr. Carol Teitz, an expert in treating dancers. And for the small gathering of women - the ARC diehards - there were more than several raised eyebrows and sidelong glances. It was a view of ballet, and not from the box seats.

But these are troopers - many doctors' wives - and we regrouped around the white linen tables in the pale light of early winter afternoon for teatime fortification.

The white lights of a Christmas tree winked. Conversation was friendly. Someone noted that the Skinner Foundation donated $15,000 to the organization in ARC member Kayla Skinner's name. And off in the ballroom, Martha Stewart whipped up her magic on a Christmas tree for the Sunset Club Christmas party.

And the afternoon went on.

About Town by Nancy Bartley appears Sunday and Monday in the Scene section of The Times.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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