The Meaning of Sisterhood


Guest blog post from Tara Bitzan, Chapter EL, Alexandria, Minnesota

I was initiated into Chapter EL, Alexandria, Minnesota, in 2012. It was soon clear to me that while education is a key focus area, friendship is the cornerstone of P.E.O. I didn’t realize the magnitude of the support and friendship shared by P.E.O. sisters – even those who don’t know you – until a couple years later.

My daughter, Courtney, was fortunate to receive a STAR Scholarship in 2015. The women in the chapter took pride in her accomplishment and gave her so much encouragement as she prepared to travel more than 900 miles from home to Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

Colorado State University offered the Interior Architecture and Design, Construction Management and Sustainability programs she was interested in. She also liked the size of the school and the community. The challenge was that she knew no one at CSU or in Fort Collins. While that was daunting for her, it was probably more daunting for me as her mother. A member of my chapter, Terry Kobbermann, asked my permission to share Courtney’s contact information with her friend, Mary Jane Thorson, who lives in Fort Collins and is a P.E.O.

Mary Jane reached out to Courtney. She took her out for coffee or lunch, invited her to her home and embraced her as if she were family. Even though I didn’t know Mary Jane, it provided me with a sense of peace to have this wonderful woman watching out for my daughter.

As Courtney settled in, made friends and got involved at CSU, Mary Jane never quit reaching out and supporting her. Their relationship grew and developed over the four years Courtney was there. When it was time for graduation, Mary Jane insisted on hosting a party at her home and invited all 13 of our family members who traveled to Colorado. She made a lovely meal and served us as if we were family. I still tear up every time I think of the kindness this amazing woman showed to me through caring for my daughter.

Those early weeks and months in Colorado were difficult for Courtney and there is no doubt Mary Jane was a key reason she was able to stay at the college of her dreams and not pack up and move back home after the first semester. She did move back to Minnesota after graduation in 2019 and is thriving. She now owns her own business, McCarten Design, and is planning a wedding for October 2022.

I was told P.E.O. was a “sisterhood” when I first joined, but I really had no idea what that meant. I do now and am blessed to be part of it.