Emily’s Charities

The Starlight Children’s Foundation

Founded in 1982, it provides clothing, games, and deliveries directly to hospitalised children through a network of more than 700 children’s hospitals and medical centres in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia.

Emily has been the co-chair on its board for the past eight years, which seems unlikely – the foundation’s headquarters are in Los Angeles, it doesn’t have co-chairs, and its board is made up people with high profiles in medicine, finance, and media. I think we are meant to assume this is a (fictional) local fundraising branch for Hartford.

The Black and White Ball is their main fundraising event. This is a masquerade ball in which everyone is dressed in either black or white. They are intended to be extremely glamorous and exclusive events, with high ticket prices.

Hartford Zoological Silent Auction

A fictional organisation of which Emily is a board member. Hartford doesn’t actually have a zoo. The nearest Zoological Society is in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to support Beardsley’s Zoo.

A silent auction is one where bidders write their bids down on a sheet of paper, with the highest bid winning. They are common at charity events.

The Mark Twain House Restoration Fund

The Mark Twain House is a museum in Hartford, once the home of the author of Huckleberry Finn. Restoration began on the house in 1963, and its fundraising arm is the Friends of the Mark Twain House and Museum. They’ve been fundraising since 1954. This must be the organisation that has Emily as a board member, and is holding the charity luncheon Emily has been forced to turn down.

Harriet Beecher Stowe Literacy Auction

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was an American author and abolitionist, best known for her 1852 anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The Harriet Beecher Stowe House & Center is in Hartford, next door to the Mark Twain House and Museum. Emily seems to be on the board of both these museums.

Emily’s strong community involvement, which is the major part of her social life, is very much like Lorelai’s enthusiastic support of every festival and celebration in Stars Hollow, right down to a cat’s wake. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree in this case.

Luke’s Approved Social Activities

Kabbalah Studies

Kabbalah is an esoteric discipline in Jewish mysticism, containing a set of teachings explaining the relationship between God and the universe. It dates to around the 12th century and originated in Spain and southern France. There are different traditions and streams of thought within it, that might focus on theosophy, meditative practices, or (more controversially) white magic. It has been a strong influence on Jewish philosophy and mysticism.

Since the 1960s, universalist schools have opened up which teach Kabbalah to people of all faiths and ways of life, one of the contributors to New Age spirituality. You can also sign up for six week courses in introductory Kabbalah, making it very accessible. Possibly such courses are held in Stars Hollow, although it is slightly surprising Luke knows about them and approves, as he doesn’t seem the most mystical person. The show did seem to just give random Jewishness to characters whenever it felt like it.

Freeway (a mistake for highway????) beautification projects

Community groups often sponsor a section of highway in the US in order to maintain it, and provide volunteers to work on it. Such projects might include planting trees, shrubs and ground cover plants, mowing grass, weeding, mulching, and removing roadside litter. It seems like something Taylor would almost certainly organise for a highway near Stars Hollow.

Color Me Mine pottery painting

A chain of studios, founded in 1996, where people can paint their own pottery and ceramics. In real life, there aren’t any Color Me Mine studios in Connecticut (but plenty in California, where the writers live).

Humorously, Luke’s suggestions of social activities he might approve don’t sound like anything most teenage boys would be interested in.

Boy Scouts

The Boy Scouts are an international organisation for young people with an emphasis on practical outdoor activities, founded in the UK in 1907 by Sir Robert Baden-Powell. The Boy Scouts of America were founded in 1910, after Chicago publisher W.D. Boyce encountered a helpful Boy Scout while visiting England. It currently has over a million members.

We discover in this episode that Taylor Doose is the scout leader in Stars Hollow. It’s another perplexing incident in regard to time of day – it can’t be any later than about 7:20 am when Lorelai finishes breakfast and goes to the counter, because she still has to drive Rory to school in Hartford, which starts at 8.05 am, and Rory is getting very agitated about being late, because it’s the first day of the school year.

Yet Taylor has just finished a two hour outdoor survival training session with the Boy Scouts. It seems bizarre to organise this before the school day begins, on the first day of the school year, no less. He also takes the boys to breakfast at Luke’s Diner (which doesn’t seem like a very outdoorsy thing to do), and they choose food such as burgers and fries, grilled cheese, and doughnuts. I guess learning about healthy breakfasts comes later in the boys’ training. You just have to put all this down to the charming eccentricity of Stars Hollow.

Mensa

LORELAI: You make me smarter.
MAX: Hm, well, I am a teacher …
LORELAI: Take me upstairs and see if you can get me into Mensa.

Mensa International is an organisation open to those with high IQs, scoring in the 98th percentile or higher on a standardised, supervised, intelligence test. It was founded in 1945 by Roland Berrill, an Australian barrister, and Dr Lancelot Ware, a British scientist and lawyer.

Sunnyside

RORY: I called the Sunnyside home. Do they need any volunteers? And believe it or not, they don’t, but they do need an accordion player for their Friday night polka party.

Sunnyside Nursing Centers are a chain of aged care nursing and rehabilitation homes in the United States. In real life, there is more than one Sunnyside nursing home in the Wallingford area, where Stars Hollow appears to be located, although none of them are actually called The Sunnyside Home (that may just be what people in Stars Hollow call it, rather than its actual name).

Apart from trying the Fireflies and Sunnyside, Rory also calls the Stars Hollow library, which apparently only has twelve books (surely an exaggeration), and the Chilton tutoring program, who are just taking names at present.

Rory seems to have amassed an enormous amount of brochures for various organisations within a few hours, late in the day. How she managed to do this is something of a mystery

Fireflies

RORY: I called the Fireflies. Do they need troop leaders? Yes. Good, I’ll be a troop leader. Great. The only catch is, it’s summer. Camping season. I need wilderness skills. Why did you never take me camping?
LORELAI: Camping? Are you kidding? I couldn’t get you to step on wet grass until you were three.

The Fireflies are a fictional organisation, perhaps based on the Camp Fire Girls, founded in 1910 as a sister organisation to the Boy Scouts of America. In 1975 it became for both boys and girls, and is now just called Camp Fire. It teaches camping and wilderness skills, just like the Fireflies, and Lauren Graham was a member when she was young. In real life, there are no Camp Fire groups in Connecticut.

The 1997 black comedy film Wag the Dog , with screenplay by Amy Sherman-Palladino’s favourite playwright, David Mamet, uses The Firefly Girls as a replacement for the Camp Fire Girls. This could be an homage (and a slightly naughty one, as in the film the young Firefly Girl receives inappropriate advances from the President in the Oval Office).

If Rory would not step on wet grass until she was three, no doubt that’s from Lorelai’s example – she notoriously hates nature and the great outdoors..

Paris and Volunteering

PARIS: When you apply to an Ivy League school, you need more than good grades and test scores to get you in. Every person who applies to Harvard has a perfect GPA and great test scores. It’s the extras that put you over the top. The clubs, charities, volunteering. You know.
RORY: Oh yeah, I know.

Paris explains to Rory what she should already know – to get into a top university like Harvard, you need something to set you apart from all the other excellent candidates.

Paris has been volunteering since she was about nine, and began by handing out cookies at the local children’s hospital (possibly the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford). By the age of ten she was running a study group for teenagers, probably through Chilton. She has also been a counsellor for a children’s summer camp, organised a literacy program for seniors, worked at a suicide prevention hotline (a truly terrifying thought), and a residential centre for runaways and homeless youth.

She has also adopted dolphins (you just send money to an organisation like The Oceanic Society), taught American Sign Language (perhaps through the American School for the Deaf in Hartford), and trained guide dogs (volunteers raise puppies and give them socialisation and basic training before handing them back so they can be trained as guide dogs; Paris may have done this through Guiding Eyes in Hartford.) We know Paris likes dogs, because her dog Skippy is said to have had a litter of puppies on Lorelai’s mini-dress that she borrowed: weirdly (or perhaps lazily by the writers) her dog has the same name as Rory’s unfortunate hamster.

Paris has done an insane amount of volunteering for a 16-17 year old girl, but in fact choosing this as a good method of getting into Harvard is almost certainly wrong. Colleges don’t seem to be really be that impressed by you doing huge amounts of random volunteer work (probably because anyone with half a brain and no life can rack up hours of unpaid work fairly easily).

What they really want to see is how your extracurricular activities demonstrate the kind of person you are, and the unique skills and interests that you have. For example, Paris wants to work in medical research, so the children’s hospital was a great start, but she didn’t stick with it. It would have been better to continue volunteering with just one or two organisations, and demonstrate that she had gained a leadership role and given real help to the community – maybe even won an award of some kind. Paris’ volunteering CV looks as if she’s desperately taken any role offered (and sending money to dolphins doesn’t look impressive to anyone).

Furthermore, it depends on the university how highly they rank volunteer work when assessing applications. It doesn’t seem to be extremely important for Harvard, which makes Paris’ efforts even more pointless.

Rebuilding Together

 

MADELINE: There’s a Rebuilding Together thing going on tomorrow. You know, they fix up homes for the needy. It’s a total easy outdoor denim gig that looks really great on your college transcript.

In real life, Rebuilding Together is a non-profit organisation founded in 1988 which provides free home repairs and renovations for low-income homeowners. However, in the Gilmore Girls universe it seems to operate more like Habitat for Humanity, a Christian-based organisation founded in 1976 which builds simple, affordable housing with volunteer labour for people in need. In real life, both Rebuilding Together and Habitat for Humanity have branches in Hartford, and ongoing volunteering projects.

Madeline here makes a little bid for independence – even after being reminded that she is not meant to be talking to Rory, she invites her to join them on a volunteer project. It’s the closest she gets to protesting Rory’s treatment.

Phi Beta Bimbo

LORELAI: They’re gonna get to watch you walk down the aisle wearing your cap and gown and get your diploma and go to Harvard and be a Phi Beta Bimbo and graduate with honors and just set the world on fire.

Lorelai is referring to college fraternities and sororities, also known as Greek letter societies, as they always have names consisting of Greek letters. Several begin with Phi Beta, and Lorelai adds a “Bimbo” to show what she thinks of the female students who would join such an elitist sorority.

Hare Krishnas

CLARA: Where’s your [Girl Scout] uniform?
RORY: Oh, we’re not doing uniforms anymore. You know, we’re trying to blend in, relate better to the average person. It was a very successful strategy for the Hare Krishnas, so …

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is a Hindu religious organisation, often called “Hare Krishnas”. It was founded in New York City in 1966 by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is worshipped by his followers as a guru and spiritual master. They worship Krishna as the highest expression of godhead, and promote yoga and a vegetarian diet.

Members of the organisation traditionally dressed in saffron robes, so that they were sometimes called “Orange People”. These days, they have integrated into the community, and often dress in normal clothes, just as many of their beliefs have become mainstream.

Girl Scout uniforms have changed throughout the years, and Rory’s statement has almost come true, as these days Girl Scouts wear casual pants and polo shirts, with a waistcoat or over-shirt to display badges on.