By Greg Ellison
(April 23, 2020) Although momentarily suspending activities, the Ocean Pines chapter of the P.E.O. Sisterhood, a nonprofit founded in 1869 to support women pursuing higher education, is in the midst of brewing up future fund-raising pursuits.
Pines chapter member Anita Roberts said the P.E.O., or Philanthropic Educational Organization, is focused on furthering the academic aspirations of women through scholarships, grants, awards and loans.
“The Ocean Pines chapter was organized on June 6, 2004,” she said. “People don’t have to live in Ocean Pines to be member.”
Roberts said membership is by invitation, with some associates also residing in nearby Ocean City and Berlin.
“Our first president was Ruth Kemp, who no longer lives in Ocean Pines,” she said.
Established in January 1869 by a small group of students at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, last year P.E.O. marked its 150th anniversary. At this point the P.E.O. Sisterhood membership totals more than half a million women in the U.S. and Canada.
Roberts said one of the Ocean Pines chapter’s primary fundraising endeavors is an annual dinner held in May, which was cancelled this year because of the covid-19 pandemic.
“The last couple of years, we’ve had it at the Yacht Club,” she said. “We invite people outside of our P.E.O. chapter, along with their husbands, to come to our dinner.”
Other efforts to find funds have included wine tastings in the fall and, in years past, a live concert.
“The money that we raise goes directly to the projects in P.E.O.,” she said. “The projects include Cottey College, which is a women’s’ college in Nevada, Missouri.”
Cottey College, which was founded in 1884 by Virginia Alice Stockard, has been operated by P.E.O. since 1927.
In addition to stewardships for Cottey College students, P.E.O. also has assisted more than 100,000 women through multiple programs including: the Educational Loan Fund, International Peace Scholarships, Scholar Awards, STAR Scholarships and Program for Continuing Education grants.
Roberts said the Ocean Pines chapter has had success securing low interest rates for student borrowers through the Educational Loan Fund program.
“That’s a fund that lends money to qualified women,” she said. “We have a lot of luck with getting candidates for that loan in and around here.”
While admittedly not as significant on the shore, Roberts also highlighted the International Peace Scholarship Fund.
“That is for women students from other countries to come to the U.S. or Canada to pursue graduate study work and take what they learned back to their countries,” she said. “We don’t have as much luck with this one around here, because usually those women like to go to cities.”
Still, Roberts said impressive stories of women aided through the International Peace Scholarship Fund have been shared at national conventions.
“One women went to [Johns] Hopkins [University] and obtained a graduate degree in community health,” she said “She intended to go back to her country and go into villages to help with healthcare.”
Roberts said the local chapter has found some limited success assisting women with grants through the Program for Continuing Education.
“It is for a woman whose education has been interrupted,” she said.
Roberts said the intent is to provide funding for women who desire a return to school but have been restricted because of other life responsibilities.
For now the group’s next philanthropic undertakings are on hiatus, but the members are looking forward to reconvening when social distancing and stay-at-home requests are lifted, Roberts said.
“Once we are able to meet again, we will put our brains together and figure out other ways to try and raise some funds,” she said.