P.E.O. Bling – Supporting the Education of Women

“If someone doesn’t outbid her, you know it’ll soon be the subject of a blog post!” said my favorite Presbyterian pastor at our P.E.O. chapter’s annual fundraiser. And here the post is!

The collection of P.E.O. themed items that our chapter president brought back from this summer’s state convention was mine for a song. Do I need more stuff? Not a chance! But all the proceeds of the auction go toward P.E.O.’s six projects funding education for women. Our chapter is also blessed to have women who are sometimes willing to pay more than fair market value for items because they know the funds are going to a wonderful cause!

The items I purchased as part of the “P.E.O. bling bag” at Illinois State Chapter KL’s annual Christmas Auction.

P.E.O. was founded as a collegiate organization at Iowa Wesleyan College (IWC) on January 21, 1869. Its first competitor on the IWC campus was the Iowa Alpha chapter of Pi Beta Phi which was founded a month earlier. Between 1869 and 1902, the P.E.O. members who had been initiated while enrolled at IWC stayed active in the college chapter even though they were no longer enrolled at IWC. Many remained in or near Mount Pleasant. Others formed chapters in nearby towns. The early P.E.O. chapters that had been formed at nearby colleges did not survive and P.E.O.’s growth was in community chapters. The chapter at Iowa Wesleyan College was finding it difficult to operate on a college campus with the rules put forth by the community chapters.

The P.E.O. chapter at Iowa Wesleyan College was known as Original Chapter A. It later took on the name A-J to distinguish itself from the Mount Pleasant chapter. It then became known as Chapter S. After the turn of the century, the governing body of P.E.O. made the decision to withdraw the charter of Chapter S. The college co-eds wished to remain a collegiate organization and discussed becoming a chapter of a Greek-letter organization. The chapter became the Beta (second) chapter of Alpha Xi Delta on June 9, 1902 when P.E.O. officially became a community organization.

Today, P.E.O. is a Philanthropic Education Organization with six projects that benefit education for women. The oldest of these projects is the Educational Loan Fund (ELF); it began in 1907 and has helped more than 70,000 women with loans surpassing a total of $136 million.

Cottey College, the only American college for women owned by women, is another P.E.O. project. It was given to the P.E.O. Sisterhood in 1927. More than 8,500 women from 50 states, four Canadian provinces, and 85 countries are Cottey alumnae. Cottey is in the midst of a capital campaign and I am certain at my chapter will make sure we increase out contribution to Cottey this year. (more about Cottey is at http://wp.me/p20I1i-h3)

Established in 1949, the P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship Fund (IPS) gives scholarships to international women for graduate study in the United States or Canada. More than $28 million has been awarded and women from all over the globe have had educational opportunities they never would have had without P.E.O.’s generosity.

The P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education began in 1973. Needs-based grants are given to American and Canadian women whose educations have been interrupted. More than $40 million has been distributed. These grants have helped countless women and, in turn, their families by providing them with the opportunity to obtain the credentials they need to find viable employment.

Since 1991, the highly competitive P.E.O. Scholar Awards have provided financial assistance to American and Canadian women pursuing doctoral-level study. The amount that has been awarded is nearly $15 million.

The youngest of P.E.O.’s projects is the STAR Scholarship, established in 2009. It provides college scholarships to exceptional high school women in the United States and Canada. In the few years of its existence, nearly $2 million has been dispersed.

My P.E.O. “bling bag” items will join the other things that I purchased at the auction, some of which may make another appearance at next year’s auction, so KL sisters you still have a chance to own this spectacular collection!

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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