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Members of PEO Chapter BO at Clear Creek Park gather for a group photo. The chapter celebrates its 100th anniversary Jan. 4. Photo submitted

Local PEO chapter celebrates 100th birthday

A very special 100th birthday will be celebrated Thursday, Jan. 4, by members of Chapter BO of the International P.E.O. organization. A luncheon celebration will take place later, in Westwood, on Sept. 15, 2018, that will include many guests from other chapters, including California P.E.O. state officers.

P.E.O. is a little publicized sisterhood whose members range in ages from 18 to 100-plus. Founded by seven young women students at Wesleyan College on Jan. 29, 1869, P.E.O. supports women in the United States, Canada and throughout the world with financial and moral support that is needed to pursue higher education degrees.

Regionally local P.E.O., chapters in addition to Westwood, are in Susanville, Lake Almanor and Quincy.

International P.E.O. membership is now a quarter of a million women in the U.S. and Canada. In fact, the organization owns and operates Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri — an all-girl, two-year college with some four-year programs just getting started. Westwood alumnus Meghan Hennessey is a recent graduate of Cottey College.

In an article published in The New York Times News Service, Dec. 28, 1977 about P.E.O., it was reported that, “Its assistance to women is measured monetarily in millions of dollars. Its impact on lives is immeasurable.”

Chapter BO of the International P.E.O. Sisterhood was organized during an evening meeting at the home of Dorothea Nash on Jan. 4, 1918, by nine Westwood women during a raging blizzard. This ceremony was led by the State organizers from Fullerton, and from Reno.

The early history of the Westwood group reveals that they not only supported women through scholarships and loans, but also did projects to earn money for these grants and aided in the community in which they were a part.

For example, they made layettes for newborns, but later discontinued that and instead deposited $5 in a bank account for each new baby. They investigated and helped families in need of food, gave a Victrola to the Westwood Hospital, had white elephant sales, made aprons and pot holders for bazaars and prepared Christmas scrapbooks for ill children. They supported teachers in the school and helped Brownie leaders.

Today, the many grants given internationally include the highly competitive Star Scholarship for women graduating from high school who demonstrate a well-rounded education in the areas of leadership, academics, extracurricular activities and community service, and who demonstrate a potential for future success.

Another popular grant has been the Continuing Education Grant that is given to those women whose education has been interrupted and who find it necessary to return to school to complete a degree or certification that will improve their marketable skills for employment so they can support themselves or their families.

This grant is need-based and those seeking it must have had at least 24 consecutive months as a non-student sometime in their adult lives. They must be recommended by Chapter BO. Many women from Westwood and Chester have received this grant.

An ELF loan (Educational Loan Fund) is available for those enrolled in a full-time or part-time accredited postsecondary institution. They must meet a credit score of 625 for this loan. There is a maximum of $12,000 for undergraduate, $15,000 for a masters and $20,000 for a doctorate. This loan currently has an interest rate of 2 percent. Repayment begins six months after graduation.

These grants and loans must go through the chapter acceptance process.

Interested women will find further information about these and other grants online at peointernational.org. There are also state grants available that do not need chapter approval.

Applications are available now and must be postmarked by Feb. 1. That information can be found at peocalifornia.org. If there are further questions, contact Jan Cox, Sheri Binswanger, Mary Ann Mayne or other members of Chapter BO.

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