P.E.O’s have fun and do good along the way

Published 10:00 pm Saturday, September 27, 2008

Jean Orrendorf has energy to spare.

With a cap pulled low and an eye on the weather — after all, she was planning a golf match later in the morning — Jean and Mitzi Rowland dropped in for a visit on a recent Friday morning.

“Do you know about the P.E.O.s,” Jean asked with sly grin. “I didn’t think so; not many people do.”

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P.E.O.s, she went on to explain, are women who belong to an international philanthropic educational organization whose primary mission is promotion educational opportunities for women.

Founded in 1969 on the campus of Iowa Wesleyan College by seven friends, the organization has grown to membership of almost a quarter million in chapters across the United States and Canada, according to its Web site. The P.E.O. Sisterhood, as it’s called, operates five international philanthropies: P.E.O. Educational Loan Fund, Cottey College, P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship Fund, P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education and P.E.O. Scholar Awards.

Some of the local members had been involved with P.E.O. in other communities. And, three years ago, Margaret Stewart, Glea Coleman and Melinda Lyles took the lead in establishing a chapter in Troy

“There are 17 of us here in Troy,” Jean said, laughing. “You know, they wouldn’t let us talk about it for a while …. I think they didn’t want a lot of publicity or attention.”

Now, though, the members are stepping forward, taking their mission to the public and asking for help.

“We’re going to have a fund-raiser,” she said. “Actually, a couple of them.”

Up first is a cake auction Oct. 29 on WTBF. But it’s not your typical cake auction.

“We’re going to make a cake or dessert that means something special to us,” Mitzi said. “We’ll include the recipe, along with a card explaining why we chose this recipe.”

In February, members are planning a silent auction.

“We’re trying to raise money to help support the philanthropies we fund through P.E.O.,” Jean said.

Those include Cottey College, a two-year independent liberal arts and sciences college for women in Nevada, Mo. “Can you imagine P.E.O. actually owns and operates a college,” Jean said with amazement. “That’s a commitment to education.”

In addition, the various foundation programs provide financial assistance — through scholarships and loans, to women seeking an education. Some programs are designed specifically for women whose education has been interrupted and who find it necessary to return to school to support themselves or their families; some are designed to recognize and reward women with outstanding leadership abilities; others provide loans for women who seek an education, but simply do not have the funds available to pursue it.

“It’s a fabulous group,” said Jean, who is secretary of the local chapter. President is Elaine Bassett and other officers include Margaret Stewart, vice president; Barbara White, Shelby Brown, Jerri Emerson, Linda Dykes and Mitzi.

“We have a lot of fun,” Jean said with a laugh. “And we do good along the way.”

Stacy G. Graning is publisher of The Messenger. She can be reached via email at stacy.graning@troymessenger.com