A local philanthropic chapter will celebrate its founding — and five decades of helping women seeking higher education — on Thursday.
P.E.O. — Philanthropic Education Organization — was founded in 1869 as a campus friendship society by seven students at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
Locally, Chapter BH Oneonta P.E.O. Sisterhood was founded 50 years ago, and members will recognize the chapter’s anniversary during a meeting Thursday.
“It’s a great organization,’’ Ginger Heitz, recent past-president of the Oneonta chapter, said. Not only does P.E.O. support women in their pursuit of college and other advanced degrees, she said Tuesday, but the group provides a nurturing environment where friendship is valued.
The local chapter has between 30 and 40 members who are from Oneonta, the Cooperstown area, Laurens and Hartwick, said Heitz, of Fly Creek. The local chapter would welcome hearing from women interested in applying for P.E.O. support, she said.
Today P.E.O. has about 250,000 women in chapters throughout the United States and Canada, according to the P.E.O. New York website. P.E.O.’s mission focuses on supporting six international philanthropic projects — Scholar Award, International Peace Scholarship, Program for Continuing Education, Educational Loan Fund, STAR Scholarship and Cottey College.
The P.E.O. Sisterhood owns and operates Cottey College in Nevada, Mo. Cottey, a college for women, offers two-year and four-year degree programs. Gifts to the P.E.O. Foundation, which qualifies as a charity, are tax deductible, but local and state chapters aren’t qualified as charities, the P.E.O. International website said.
Almost 88,000 women have benefited from educational grants, loans, awards, special projects and stewardship of Cottey College, the website said, with support totaling millions of dollars.
Information about assistance to local women wasn’t available, several members said.
Sally Tyler, a local P.E.O. sister, said the larger organization reaches out to help women in many phases of life, such as single women or widows.
“Our work is definitely geared toward the education of women,’’ Tyler said Tuesday.