The Owensboro Chapter of the Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO) Sisterhood recently awarded a STAR scholarship that furthers the club’s mission to help women achieve their goals through education.
The organization, founded in 1869 by seven women and based in Des Moines, Iowa, sanctioned the Owensboro chapter, which currently has 20 community members, in 1988.
“So some of the original PEO members all rushed to the same sorority, and some of them couldn’t get in, so they said, ‘Let’s just form our own sorority,'” Jerry Ann Hayes said. , President of the Owensboro Chapter.
The organization has grown considerably over the years in the United States and Canada, although it was, until recently, a “secret” club. Hayes said this most likely hampered PEO’s membership and contributed to him being largely unknown in the community. Now that the organization is more “open,” Hayes is looking for ways to publicize the things the organization offers.
“We are looking for ways to increase our membership,” she said. “PEO used to be a secret organization when it was formed in 1869. Now it’s not so much like that. The modern woman is not interested in a secret organization.
Hayes, chapter president for three years, said her goals remain the same as when the fellowship began.
“What PEO is about providing educational opportunities for women,” Hayes said. “We go further, and we also meet (for) certain social aspects. We come together and support each other throughout life. But our main goal is to help women through educational efforts.
The local chapter usually meets on the second Monday of each month, though Hayes said the schedule is not set in stone and is flexible for women’s schedules. Meetings include club business, a light lunch, and the occasional program that serves as a fun — and often educational — activity for members.
Programs cover a variety of topics, from focusing on business to learning about an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee or visiting the botanical garden to end-of-life issues.
“Because we’re all about education, we want to continue education,” Hayes said. “So we have different members…use (our) different interests to bring programs to the group.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic having waned in recent months, Hayes said members, beginning in July, will resume offering their homes as bed and breakfasts to traveling PEO members.
Members are focused on advancing women through educational means, and so the organization offers no shortage of scholarships and financial aid to women entering higher education, Hayes said.
Established in 2009, the STAR Scholarship provides $2,500 to high school graduates so they can attend an accredited post-secondary institution. This year, the Owensboro Chapter awarded the scholarship to Anna Brown of Topeka, Kansas, whose grandmother, Linda Bambini, is a member of the Owensboro Chapter.
“We need to help these young women get into college,” Hayes said. “That’s how the Star Fellowship began.”
But that’s not the only way PEO helps. The club also offers low-interest student loans and scholarships. The organization also owns a “debt-free” school – Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri.
The college has about 400 students. U.S. News and World Report magazine ranked it as the fourth “Best Regional College” in 2022.
“If I could go back to college, I would go there, because of the teacher-to-student ratio,” Hayes said. “It’s about leadership. It’s very eclectic, so there are a lot of women from other countries who go to school there.
For more information about the club, visit its peointernational Facebook page, or visit the organization’s website peointernational.org.