Playing a Part

P.E.O. Chapter EV-Anthem gearing up to host a fundraiser

By Jordan Houston

Coming on the heels of its 150th anniversary, a women-centric nonprofit is as committed as ever to celebrating female advancements across borders.

The Iowa-based Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O.) Sisterhood boasts an impressive membership of around 230,000 members throughout North America and is dedicated to creating educational opportunities for female students.

Since its inception in 1869, the nonprofit has awarded more than $344 million in financial assistance to over 109,000 recipients of its varying philanthropies.

And P.E.O. Chapter EV-Anthem, one of the organization’s 6,000 local chapters, is doing its part in ensuring the movement can continue to thrive.

The branch of 40 women is gearing up to host a fundraiser on Monday, March 16, at the Anthem Country Club’s Ironwood Country Club Ballroom from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

With a goal of raising $1,500, the luncheon promises a day filled with food, fun and friendship.

“We’re all about women motivating and helping women,” P.E.O. Chapter EV-Anthem President Lynn Caldwell says. “For our normal fundraisers, we’ve usually had them in our homes and we provided the food—but this time we wanted to have an event that our community could look forward to.”

For $42 per ticket, guests can treat themselves to helpings of chicken chardonnay, salad, Boursin whipped potatoes, vegetables and chiffon cake paired with strawberries, all made fresh by the club staff.

A cash bar will also be open during the gathering.

The fundraiser will feature an hour of bingo, complete with small prizes, and a raffle drawing.

Donated by community vendors, the seven raffle baskets range from $100 to $350 in worth, and represent categories like Christmas in March, Pamper Yourself Spa, Desert SW, spirits/snacks, Family Fun Wagon, half-day Desert Ride UTV rental package for two, patriotic picnic and poolside fun.

The sisters will also work to incorporate this year’s state theme, “Spirit of Many Hands,” which was chosen by the state chapter’s president. The theme, Caldwell explains, speaks to the organization’s all-hands-on-deck approach.

“It’s what we really try to focus on with everyone that we talk to about P.E.O.,” she states. “Because we can’t do any of this without the many of us.”

All proceeds from the event will go toward supporting six international projects and three state projects, Caldwell continues.

The six philanthropies include ownership of Cottey College, a woman’s college offering baccalaureate and associate degree programs, and five programs that provide higher educational assistance through scholarships, grants, awards and loans.

“We give every year to not only our international projects, but to our base here in Arizona,” Caldwell says.

The group is focusing its efforts on helping a Boulder Creek High School student pursue college.

The senior is a candidate for the organization’s STAR Scholarship, which sets out to fund post-secondary education for “exceptional” high school senior women.

Recipients can enroll in “accredited postsecondary educational institutions” anywhere in the United States or Canada the following academic year.

“We do an interview process and select students that stand out in academics, service and leadership,” Caldwell discloses.

Since 2009, the nonprofit has awarded $10.7 million in STAR scholarships.

P.E.O was founded more than 150 years ago as a college society at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

What started out as a bond of friendship between seven women is now the oldest women’s organization in North America, according to the nonprofit’s website.

The sisterhood espouses five core values: faith, love, purity, justice and truth.

Fellowship and philanthropic services are also of utmost importance.

“The idea of supporting women in all these varieties of ways appeals to me,” says the president, who has been a member since the chapter’s inception in 2005. “It’s so important to champion education for women.”

Although membership is through invitation only, the international website claims, Caldwell says prospective members shouldn’t shy away.

The invitation process is more about getting to know potential members, she expresses, which then leads to a sponsorship.

“That’s why we’re having this, we want to inform people that if you’re interested, just let us know,” she says.

The only requirement to join is a written acceptance of God—all religious backgrounds are welcome.

“We are very open and we don’t discriminate,” Caldwell assures. 

Caldwell, whose mother, grandmother and two aunts were also former P.E.O. members, tells 85086 Magazine that the sisterhood is based on friendship and mutual respect.

And it’s a friendship like no other.

“A big part of what we are is a group of friends,” Caldwell says. “We work hard together and we work to be forgiving of each other, graceful toward each other and just loving toward each other.”

The EV-Anthem chapter meets on the second and fourth Mondays of every month from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Taking place at member homes, the sisters discuss strategies to raise money for scholarships, loans, awards and grants for women’s education.

With an annual fee of $56, women as young as 18 are welcome, Caldwell explains.

“You can be a member and even if you can’t come much,” Caldwell states. “You can still help with fundraisers or come to the socials—you can be a part of it as much as your life allows.”

For those who are unable to attend the luncheon but still wish to support the Valley’s strong women, checks can be made payable to the P.E.O. Chapter EV-Anthem, Caldwell says.

She notes that although the international chapter is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the local chapters are not—meaning donations made to EV-Anthem are not considered tax deductible.

Donations can also be made to the P.E.O. Foundation, with downloadable instructions at peointernational.org/contributions-peo-foundation.

“I’m proud of being a part of this always-forward looking organization,” Caldwell says. “Our organization is always changing, yet we are in the business of preserving the tradition that those girls started while we keep us in the 21st century.”

To snag a luncheon ticket, contact Karen Wolff at 602-558-0897.   

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