The Question: How has P.E.O. opened doors for you in a new community?
How lucky I've been to have belonged to so many P.E.O. chapters: Portales, New Mexico; Santa Fe, New Mexico; a newly chartered chapter in Santa Fe; Tucson, Arizona; San Antonio, Texas; Lubbock, Texas; Falls Church, Virginia and back to Lubbock. I feel like I've got friends anywhere and everywhere I've moved. My favorite time was in Cody, Wyoming, when I was able to make living arrangements with a P.E.O. during my research stay and attend her meetings for the four months I was there. What a gift! Thanks!
Judy Rainger, CG, Lubbock, Texas
When I was a new P.E.O. a bit more than 30 years ago, a sister told me that one of the wonderful things about our sisterhood is that when relocating to a new community, you have a built-in group of friends—a place to feel at home. At the time I was pretty sure that I would never move away from Milwaukee, the place we had raised our family and put down very deep roots.
Fast forward 20 years and my husband accepted the Dean of Engineering position at Union College in Schenectady, New York, and I was being ripped out of Wisconsin by the roots!
Two weeks after the moving van had deposited us in New York, I realized that when the last box was unpacked I was without friends in a whole new environment. So I picked up the phone and called the number I found listed in The Record for the Schenectady area and called out “Help!” What a wise call that was. Soon I was invited to visit three chapters and within a short time, accepted an invitation to dimit to Chapter T.
Just attending meetings made me feel at home in this new place. Through my sisters, I found a church, a social life and a purpose.
While living in New York, I attended three state conventions which took me to many areas of the state. While driving to Long Island for convention one year, we stopped for lunch at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. Returning home we stopped for brunch at West Point—two places I might never have seen on my own. Traveling to Ithaca another year, we stopped in Seneca Falls to visit the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Our chapter meetings were varied and interesting—including one memorable meeting that we held in the New York Governor’s Mansion at Christmas. As president, I conducted our chapter meeting in the governor’s living room and we were served lunch in the “state” dining room! I’ll not soon forget that experience.
After seven years in New York my husband retired and we returned to the Milwaukee area to be near our grandchildren and their parents. Even though I have dimitted back into Chapter AM, I hold my sisters in Chapter T, New York, very close to my heart with great memories of our years together. Without P.E.O. I know I wouldn’t have had as many doors opened to me in New York.
Mary Anne Balmer, AM, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
My husband and I have two daughters, one in Tuscaloosa and one in Nashville. For two years they begged us to move closer to them. Finally, in April of 2009 we decided to put our house on the market and just see what happened. The housing market was at its low ebb, and we felt sure that we would have lots of time to evaluate our decision. However, much to our surprise—and I might add alarm—we sold the house in two days, and we had one month before closing! So the decision was set in stone, and we drove immediately to Tuscaloosa to find a place to live.
Having lived in East Texas for more than 35 years and being senior citizens, we faced a very traumatic move. We were leaving lifelong friends, our church family and my P.E.O sisters.
We arrived in Tuscaloosa on May 28th and waved goodbye to our daughter, son-in-law, and one year old granddaughter the next day. They left to spend two and a half months in Ireland and England. Our daughter in Nashville was four hours away. Thus we found ourselves in a strange city knowing only our realtor!
In only the second week after our move, a woman came through my open garage to the kitchen door and knocked. She introduced herself as Fran Mullin, a P.E.O. who had been notified of my arrival in Tuscaloosa. My kitchen was a mess! Boxes piled everywhere, dishes on the cabinet waiting for a place to call their own, and as for me, I was certainly not dressed as I would have wished to be when meeting a new P.E.O. sister! But Fran was so friendly and so welcoming that I immediately felt at ease. She invited me to visit her chapter, N, Alabama, and I accepted with delight!
At the first meeting I felt so comfortable. They welcomed me with open arms and offered advice about things to do and see in Tuscaloosa. They gave me tips on hair dressers, cleaners, etc. So the summer that I had dreaded so much with my children in England became a lovely one because I had my P.E.O. sisters to help guide me through.
I will always love and miss my sisters in FN, Longview, Texas, but it is a true blessing to have new sisters in Chapter N, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Martha McElroy, N, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
When one’s autobiography includes a minimum of eight “hometowns,” relocation with a known quality like the sisters of P.E.O. is a given. Some of these towns were in my childhood, but as an adult, I started membership in my mother’s chapter, HR, Belleville, Illinois in 1985. I emigrated with my husband and three children after 19 years in Greece, to give my son and two daughters education in this country, en route to college.
Naturally, my mother, like her mother did for her, invited me to meet her chapter. She also had moved often and said the best way to join a new community is through P.E.O.
I soon knew more than 20 sisters, some of whose children were classmates with my children. How I looked forward to being with these new friends, hearing their stories and telling mine. This was a luncheon chapter; we soon were exchanging recipes, mine with a Greek bent. I loved the projects and the communal efforts of fundraising for scholarships.
I was set! However, the then empty nest prompted us to relocate to Oregon in 1993 for the ocean, mountains and moderate climate. The best part? There were eight chapters in Eugene to visit, delightfully reinforcing the sharing of experiences and interests. I was working full time so I joined an evening chapter, DG. By then I had taken the Objects and Aims to heart, feeling these were my own personal goals, as well as those of my sisters. What a bond to share! I have given my share of programs, headed Ways and Means, and was treasurer.
Thirteen years later, my daughter’s second child and my retirement arrived almost simultaneously. Surprise! “Mom, could you relocate to help with childcare?” This time I knew what to expect. I was NOT going to lose sisters, but gain MORE. I again visited chapters. As Ithaca is a smaller town, I kept running into women I “knew” in this sisterly way. You “belong” immediately because of our common goals and support of women’s education. As of 2007, Chapter BJ is my home and I am currently serving as vice president.
An additional advantage for one who travels is the bed and breakfast program. I have stayed in homes all over. I love meeting a new sister and exchanging ideas and viewpoints.
Anna Raphaelidis, BJ, Ithaca, New York
Currently active in my 11th P.E.O. chapter, I sometimes think I’m the poster child for the benefit of P.E.O. membership (although I did meet a woman at a West Palm Beach, Florida, Reciprocity meeting 20 years ago who had been in 12!) Without our network of introductions and welcomes, I’m sure I wouldn’t have found friends in all those new communities so quickly. My mother always told me, “Pay your dues—and wear your emblem to any newcomer gathering.” Sure enough, sisters always noticed my little gold star or P.E.O. recognition pin, resulting in faster contact than through the official chapter-to-chapter form from my previous chapter. Visiting a state convention of a former state, someone asked me where I was living and commented, “P.E.O. must be the only constant in your life!” Pretty much.
I've used the Directory of Presidents to help me find a realtor in my new community, or to check out zip codes where other P.E.O.s lived. I knew those would be nice areas with nice neighbors.
Marietta Beckham, Past President, Nevada State Chapter
The open doors in moving to a new area are not the doors one might expect. Just over six years ago, we moved from Kansas City to Owosso, Michigan. The first thing we looked for was a church. The second, for me, was a P.E.O. chapter. A wonderful chapter of loving sisters with the closest member living 30 miles away asked me to dimit. I have attended and served as I could, but my involvement with the internal business and life of the chapter has not been as consistent as I would have liked. I have found other avenues to be involved. Those who know me in P.E.O. know that my passion is finding candidates for our projects. I am a project recipient, having received a scholarship to attend Cottey College, graduating in 1981, and completing a B.S. in education at the University of Missouri.
I am motivated to help other people by my deep, personal faith. I am also on faculty at a local career college, and see much desperation in my students’ lives to improve their situations. My faith, combined with my profession and past experience with our projects, gets me really excited about helping women meet their educational goals to improve the lives of their families. I may not be able to save the world, but I can help one woman at a time. This has opened doors in getting to know women in my area—whether they’re students, mothers of my kids’ friends or daughters of co-faculty members—who in turn have become my friends. Some have received assistance; some have not. Either way, I have made many new friends in my small town. Due to Michigan’s economy, my husband has taken a new job in the Farmington, Minnesota, area. I look forward to meeting a new group of sisters (I have already looked up the reciprocities in the area), and more women to help with their educational goals.
Cathy Hoffman, EX, Fenton, Michigan
When I moved to Arizona 20 years ago, my chapter sent all the proper forms, but did not have my phone number (this was before cell phones and our number was unlisted because of my job). I was shocked and amazed one evening when the doorbell rang at our new home and a friendly face was at the door. It was Randi Turk, a third generation P.E.O. who lived about a mile away at the time. Her mother was the Reciprocity Chair and had mentioned that a newly transplanted P.E.O. was in the neighborhood, but with no phone number. Randi had taken it upon herself to just stop by, say hello, welcome me to the neighborhood, invite me to a meeting and get my phone number before any other chapter contacted me!
After just one visit, I knew this was the chapter for me. I was issued a dimit to Chapter C, Glendale, Arizona, and have been a member since then. Having moved to an area with no family or friends, these fantastic P.E.O. sisters immediately accepted me as one of their own and became my family in Arizona.
These wonderful sisters have done so much for my family and me. I've learned to play bridge, make silk scarves and in return, introduced them to scrapbooking. When my husband's job required that he live in London for a time, these wonderful sisters stepped up and took care of our kids so that I could visit him for a week. In addition, several of us have traveled together and they are truly entwined in my Arizona life.
Sheila M Krueger, C, Glendale, Arizona
This is a bit of a new take on the question, but I would like to tell you about my experience staying in a P.E.O. bed and breakfast this past January. My husband and I were flying to San Francisco for a trip along the California coast. Our goal was to drive as far as Monterrey Peninsula the first day, so I checked to see if there was a bed and breakfast available in the area. To our delight we stayed with a wonderful couple in Pebble Beach on the 17-Mile Drive. We had a lovely place to stay as well as the opportunity to meet a gracious P.E.O. sister. This service opened new doors for my husband and me in a unique way, and made the start of our trip very special.
Bonnie Mueller, IU, Oregon, Illinois
I left my long-time career teaching elementary children to relocate with my husband half way across the United States. Leaving the job that I loved, the friends and family I loved and the house where I was comfortable to move to a city where I knew no one was difficult and challenging. I felt like I had moved to a foreign country. Even the people spoke differently with their New England accents! After about a year a friend at church gave me a precious gift, the gift of P.E.O. The women in Chapter B, Concord, New Hampshire, welcomed me and filled a void in my life. I soon had many new friends with common interests.
This, however, was not to last as again I followed my husband to the Washington, D.C., area. We settled into a Maryland suburb and soon I was invited to attend a meeting of Chapter S. One of the co-hostesses opened the door wearing a witch’s hat and nose and at lunchtime the president asked me to sit with her. I had made instant and fun-loving friends! The women were special and became an important part of my life. I soon was actively engaged in P.E.O. life.
My husband’s retirement brought about another move to a lake in Missouri. Fishing and boating didn’t satisfy me and I soon transferred to Chapter CH. I became an active member, held several offices, including being president and attended state conventions. Each move expanded my horizons by bringing new friends in P.E.O.
One more move and again I transferred to Chapter CJ, Rockford, Illinois, where I am today. A sister soon introduced me to the auxiliary of a local hospital and my volunteer job in its thrift shop has opened up a whole new world. I have appreciated my CJ sisters in their friendship and especially those who took lonely newcomers “under their wings” and introduced my BIL and me to social events and restaurants in this new city. Our P.E.O. projects are important and worthwhile, but also the friends I have made transferring from one state to another are precious to me.
Doris Dion, CJ, Rockford, Illinois
In the spring of 1995, we were living in the Chicago suburbs. My BIL was working for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad when it was announced that Union Pacific was buying them. If you still had a job after the merger, it would be in Omaha. We had worked for railroads for more than 20 years but had never been transferred before, and I had absolutely no idea how relocation worked. In my mind I pictured a scenario in which we went to Omaha, got dumped on a street corner somewhere and were handed a phone book and told to “let our fingers do the walking.” When you don’t know anyone in a town, you obviously have no one to ask for references. I wanted a realtor that we could feel connected to and who cared about us, not just the commission. I’d been a P.E.O. since college and knew that there were reciprocity groups to help unaffiliates find new chapters in new towns. I wrote to the Omaha representative, explained that we were probably moving to the area and asked her to please give my name and number to any P.E.O. or BIL who was a realtor. It was my lucky day. The Omaha representative was Susan Harr, a past state president, who also happened to be a realtor. She called and we hit it off immediately. My then 14 year-old son had said he wasn’t moving if he couldn’t play hockey. She sent him information in two days. We drove out a couple weeks later to look around. Susan and I hugged the first time we met (how many people can say that about their realtor?) and felt like we’d known each other for years. Susan spent the entire weekend with us, even though we still weren’t sure we were moving. The first thing she did was point out all the hockey rinks and Rosenblatt Stadium, home of the College World Series. My son relaxed.
When we knew for sure that we were being transferred, we came back to Omaha. We looked at 60 houses in three days! As we drove around town Susan pointed out P.E.O. “Points of Interest” including where International Convention had been held (Susan was Convention Chairman) and “a P.E.O. lives here.” As we looked at houses we’d say, “This would be a good house for a P.E.O. meeting.” Chuck and Chris would roll their eyes and other realtors would just look confused. When we finally decided on our house (yes, it’s perfect for P.E.O.) Susan’s comment was “We’ve found you a home, now we have to find you a P.E.O. home.”
I had been Corresponding Secretary of my chapter, FZ, Illinois, so my last official act was sending my own Notice of Member Moving form. I was scared and wanted “someone I knew” sitting on my doorstep when we moved in. I attended a reciprocity meeting a month after we moved. There were several other unaffiliates at the meeting and we introduced ourselves and said how long we’d been in Omaha. People were amazed when I told them how new I was—until I added that my realtor was Susan. Then they nodded knowingly. I visited several chapters in the next month and heard reports of International Convention at three different meetings by three different people. I have been a member of Chapter BN, Omaha, Nebraska, since January 1996 and it is the most fun I have had in my almost 40 years of being a P.E.O. I am so grateful for the gift of sisterhood that is everywhere. But that’s not the end…
In 2001, my son was invited to play junior hockey in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Because the season is only several months long and players occasionally get traded, finding a short-term apartment can be tricky. Many teams and leagues have organized housing committees since the players are 16 to 19 years old. Often players live with host families. Many of the players were local and Chris was being bounced between several local teams, so no one was paying a lot of attention to where he was living. He had spent six weeks in a motel, which was getting expensive. Who knew what he’d find if he started looking for a roommate. Finally I told him I was going to contact P.E.O. in Winnipeg, because I figured that would pretty much eliminate the possibility of him ending up with an axe murderer! (Mothers’ imaginations can go wild.) He agreed since “things worked out pretty good with Susan.” I called the reciprocity contact (Linda Langevin) and explained the situation. Even though she probably thought I was crazy, she never told me that. I was hoping that maybe she knew of a P.E.O. hockey mom, an empty-nester who wanted someone to help shovel snow, a “snow-bird” who needed someone to watch the house while they were enjoying warmer temperatures, or even someone who owned an apartment building who would give him a short-term lease. Linda told me there was a reciprocity meeting in a couple of days and she would call back. As it turned out, her son and his wife and son had recently moved into their home. They had extra room and wouldn’t mind someone helping with the rent. They met Chris and hit it off immediately. Chris was often invited to extended family gatherings and still is in contact with his hockey families. Once again I am so grateful for being given the gift of P.E.O.
Karen Boehm, BN, Omaha, Nebraska