Jeanne Boughton never thought that she would end up in New Orleans. Originally from a Donaldson, LA sugarcane farm, New Orleans seemed like “a big, scary, dangerous place” to her. But now, NOLA is what she, her husband, and their two children call home, and Boughton is definitely making her mark on the city both as a professional woman and the President of the Junior League of New Orleans.
“It’s the perfect distance from my family and from a big city, and it seems like the best of both worlds,” Boughton said, “And my family still runs a sugarcane farm. So my life is a bit of a contradiction, a juxtaposition, I guess.” She originally moved to the Big Easy to work for Sprint, and after a ‘mini-moon’ with her husband, he moved from Lake Providence to join her. After seven years with Sprint, however, Boughton transitioned to working as a real estate agent, originally with Gardner Realtors and now with Williamson Brothers’ Realty. “My husband told me that I could never move again unless I got my own real estate license, so that was my motivation to get it after Katrina, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” she joked. Real estate certainly keeps the forty-three year old busy – she works wherever her clients want to live, which could be in New Orleans or anywhere else in the state of Louisiana.
Outside of her professional life, Boughton dedicates a significant amount of her time to the Junior League of New Orleans, which is self-described as “an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.” She originally became involved about ten years ago through her sister, who is seven years her junior. The sisters had not attended high school or college at the same time and their age difference had prevented them from being able to do many activities together. Finding themselves both in the same city and hearing Junior League recommendations from other women, the two siblings decided to give it a shot. “It was an easy way to get involved,” Boughton remembered. “They take all of the guesswork out of giving back to the community.” She started off as a volunteer, but after demonstrating her capacity for leadership and organization over the years, she was offered the position of president for the 2013-2014 period.
Every year a junior league member is assigned a placement, which will be her job for the upcoming year. Boughton said that she did nothing more than her job to receive the presidential placement, but it is clear that she has put dedication and effort into her time with JLNO. She was a member of the board of directors in the past and ran the membership council a few years ago. Next year, she’ll be the chair of the board of directors, which consists of the fundraising, membership, community, business/communication, and finance councils. This year, however, she’s focusing on creating improvement in one of the Junior League’s most important endeavors – their Freret Street thrift shop: Bloomin’ Deals.
“We’ve had revenue in that area, but I think it could be a much bigger source of revenue than it is now,” said Boughton about the shop. “We’re reviving our sources of fundraising structure and we’re separating out our businesses, of which the shop is a part, and our single event fundraisers.” Bloomin’ Deals stocks new and used clothing and shoes, housewares, books, and more – all of which is donated.
Recent additions to the thrift shop include the bridal boutique, which offers new and gently used wedding dresses for under $500, and the Mighty Men program, which sends husbands of Junior League members to pick up unwanted furniture from homes and deliver it to the thrift store for resale. Bloomin’ Deals sees traffic from the Freret community, the student populations of Tulane and Loyola, and all over the city.
It’s clear when she speaks that Boughton is passionate about what Bloomin’ Deals has been able to do for the community. One of her favorite stories is when a teenaged boy came in looking for his first suit. “He had a job interview, his first one, and he was probably in his teens—15 or 16,” she recalled. “I asked him where he was interviewing and he said he was going to fill out an application at the Hilton Hotel. I was so surprised that he wanted to look so nice just to fill out an application with the suit he bought at the thrift store. That happens all the time. It is not only one of our biggest community outreaches, it’s also our biggest fundraiser, which in turn funds more community outreach.”
While the thrift shop is certainly an important staple of the Junior League’s mission, it is not the only way that JLNO members give back to the community. Important projects also include efforts such as the Preservation Resource Center, which was created in 1974 by Junior League members and has since become independent, a safe-sitter babysitting program, and Lagniappe, their quarterly magazine that has updates on all of their projects and fundraisers.
So with all of that going on, what does Boughton do to take time for herself?
“Well, I don’t maintain a house,” she laughed. “That often falls to the bottom of the list, much to my chagrin, but the husband and kids don’t mind so much. My husband helps a lot. When he’s not at the office, he becomes Mr. Mom. I drink a lot of coffee. I’m a much better person with it than without it. There’s no magic formula. I do enjoy walking Audubon Park, when I get the chance.”
Be on the lookout for JLNO’s 9th annual kitchen tour April 5, 2014. Photographs of Jeanne Boughton taken by Jessica Bachmann Photography.