Niles Service League seeking new members

Published 10:03 am Friday, March 8, 2019

NILES — President of the Niles Service League Tammy Kelley was running errands with a fellow league member one day at Walmart when two children recognized her from her work with the nonprofit.

“These were two little girls we had delivered presents to for Christmas about two years ago,” Kelley said. “I was amazed they remembered. They were like, ‘look, it’s Santa’s elves in Walmart.’”

For Kelley, the president of the Niles Service League, it was a heartwarming moment that illustrates the lasting impact of the Niles Service League’s efforts. While the nonprofit will celebrate its 85th year of operation this summer, the women’s organization is in jeopardy of dissolving due to a serious slump in membership.

Kelley and Becky Brown, a fellow service member, said the communities of Niles and Buchanan, which depend on the organization, would experience a significant loss if the Niles Service League disappears.

The NSL was founded in 1934 with the mission to support the welfare of local children. While the goal remains the same, the organization completes many modern efforts to aid Buchanan, Niles and Brandywine school districts. An annual Color Run brings out dozens of people to race and get splashed with colorful powder.

The organization also provides backpacks and school supplies to children, as well as winter necessities like jackets. Last year, the nonprofit donated 145 coats to youth in need. It also provides scholarships and camperships; and adopts local families for Christmas, delivering food baskets and toys to those in need. Today, Kelley said NSL is the go-to organization for many schools when resources are needed.

“The teachers are so used to calling [us] up and saying ‘hey, I have a special needs kid or a regular kid, they need this size coat,’” Kelley said. “And we deliver.”

While Kelley and Brown said there are enough funds saved to keep the organization going, there are not enough people to plan and assist with community events and other volunteer services. Ideally, there should be at least 30 people in the organization, Brown said. Currently, there are 12 members.

The nonprofit has struggled with a decrease in membership for a number of years. It is a trend that Brown and Kelley equate with many local service organizations. Brown said she believes the loss is primarily due to people’s busy schedules.

Those who join the Niles Service League will get the reward of knowing they are actively bettering their communities, Brown said. 

“It is very rewarding,” Brown said. “For our Christmas adoption, we interview the kids, and they think we are elves. When we deliver the food and the presents, not all of them, but some of the parents are in tears hugging and thanking us.”

A number of other projects show the various ways the organization has helped. When a family lost their house in a fire, the NSL bought them furniture. When a resident who was battling cancer needed help, volunteers helped the family out with food during a holiday.

Kelley and Brown emphasized that while volunteers work hard to give back to their communities, they typically commit only a few hours a month. Additionally, the league only operates from September to June. Meetings are once a month at the Niles District Library. The nonprofit also hosts an event once a month. Dues are $60 per year.

The Niles Service League will celebrate its 85th anniversary from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 8 at the Grand LV in Niles. Prospective members will be invited to join the celebration alongside members and sustainers.

Both Kelley and Brown said they were first drawn to the Niles Service League because they wanted to help their community and get to know others. They encouraged women to join. Those interested in signing up can contact Brown at or Kelley at (269) 479-8841.

“The more people you have, the more you can do,” Brown said.