Myra Sime, Judy Davies and Sharon Blaker are three of Chilliwack’s PEO Sisterhood members, and will be celebrating the 150th birthday of the organization. (Jessica Peters/ The Progress)

Chilliwack PEO: ‘We who are sisters’

International oganization celebrating 150 years of service

The PEO Sisterhood have been supporting women for 150 years now, and it’s time for them to celebrate.

And they’re celebrating in true PEO style, by fundraising. The international organization published a book on their own history this year, called We Who Are Sisters.

Purchasing the book is one way that members are encouraged to help build up funds, and one of the Chilliwack chapters (BC) has one in their possession now. PEO member Sharon Blaker flipped through the pages while explaining the history of the PEO Sisterhood, taking in the biographies and illustrations of its founding members.

“It started with seven young college women who wanted to do their own thing,” Blaker says, rather than join an existing sorority.

Their group was founded in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, at the Iowa Wesleyan College on Jan. 21, 1869. The goal was to create a philanthropic and educational organization interested in bringing increased opportunities for higher education to women.

That’s still their unwavering focus today. And it’s what draws women like Blaker to the organization. There are close to 6,000 chapters in North America, and they are organized by letters. In Chilliwack, there is an R club, and Blaker’s BC club.

Together, their mission is “to celebrate the advancement of women; educate women through scholarships, grants, awards, loans and stewardship of Cottey College; and motivate women to achieve their highest aspirations.”

Chilliwack’s PEO’s have raised funds toward those projects through various fundraisers, including a very popular rummage sale, and through the sale of their Bean Soup Mix and Beer Bread Batter at functions around town. They’ve done paint nights, china and crystal sales, and sold pens and aprons. There have been quilt raffles, luncheons and dinners.

One of their members is Debora Soutar, a council candidate in last year’s election here in Chilliwack. The provincial chapter’s website hosts a video of Soutar explaining in depth what the local chapters do to contribute.

For Blaker, along with the Chilliwack R chapter’s Judy Davies and Myra Sime, being the group is about sisterhood more than anything. Many women stay in the group all their lives, and some of their members are multi-generational members, with mothers and grandmothers who were involved.

Davies’ own mother joined in 1955 and to be involved in the PEO, you must be invited by a current member.

“It’s a great way to get connected with some other women of integrity and to give back to other women,” Blaker says.

The PEO Sisterhood is a nonprofit organization that has helped more than 105,000 women pursue educational goals by providing over $321 million in educational assistance, making a difference in women’s lives through six philanthropies and a foundation. They include an educational loan fund, their International Peace Scholarship, a program for continuing education, scholar awards and the PEO STAR Scholarship.

@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

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