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Local woman helps lead group in supporting educational projects

July 10, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN

When Janet Fox was approached to be the president of a new evening chapter of the P.E.O. Sisterhood, she jumped at the chance.

The sisterhood, whose initials stand for Philanthropic Educational Organization, has 5,909 chapters in the United States and Canada.

Already a member of a chapter that meets in Frederick, Md., Fox was approached to lead the new group last year. There is a well-established daytime P.E.O. sisterhood group in Hagerstown, but there has been a need for an evening chapter for some time.

"The P.E.O. sisterhood is dear to my heart," Fox said. "My mom is a P.E.O. and was president of her chapter when I became a member while I was in college."

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The P.E.O. sisterhood has existed since 1869, when a group of women got together in the Midwest to bring women increased opportunities for higher education.

"I was in the evening group in Frederick when we moved to Hagerstown three years ago," Fox said. She and her husband, Curtis, have a 5-year-old daughter, Lauren.

Although she taught special education classes in Frederick and still does, Fox said it will be much more convenient for her to attend night meetings in Hagerstown.

The evening group meets in the homes of members the second Wednesday of the month.

"We talked with members of the daytime group in Hagerstown and found three or four who would prefer a night meeting," Fox said. Another dozen or so members were rounded up after that.

"My mom is coming from Frederick to go to our meetings," Fox said of the new chapter.

After some organizational meetings, the first chapter event was in February. The charter was granted in April and already the chapter membership is up to about 30, Fox said.

The workings of the P.E.O. sisterhood are quite simple. Money raised through dues, sales and silent auctions goes to the headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa.

Chapter members identify candidates with needs, then request money to fulfill those needs, Fox said.

"Usually they are mature women who are going back to school and need help," she said.

Financial help might come in the form of grants or low-interest loans, or both, Fox said.

The addition of the new chapter, called Chapter AM, brings the total number of P.E.O. chapters in Maryland to 38.

The five educational projects supported by the P.E.O. sisterhood are:

· An educational loan fund, which has distributed nearly $92 million since 1907.

· Cottey College in Missouri, which has been owned and supported by the P.E.O. sisterhood since 1927.

· An international peace scholarship fund for international students pursuing graduate studies in the U.S. and Canada.

· A continuing education program, which has given out more than $22 million since 1973.

· Scholar awards, established in 1991 for women pursuing advanced degrees or who are engaged in study and research. To date, $6.4 million has been awarded to 963 candidates.

For more information, contact Janet Fox at 301-766-0340 or jfox@myactv.net

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