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P.E.O. Bridge Luncheon raises scholarship money for local women

Suzanne Rhodes • Aug 6, 2018 at 4:30 PM


“Young women who want an education will not be stopped,” said Indian actress Freida Pinto.

Kingsport’s P.E.O. Chapter V invites the community to join the momentum by signing up for its annual Bridge Luncheon fundraiser on August 22 to support scholarships, grants and low-interest loans for local women seeking to further their education. The event will be held at First Presbyterian Church on Church Circle from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and includes coffee, fun with Bridge, a tasty boxed lunch and prizes.

“Last year, we raised $1,400. I’d like to get at least that much again,” said chapter president Eileen Garner.

P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization) is international in scope and provides several scholarships for women pursuing education from college to the graduate level. Chapter V gave financial awards to three area women last year and is in the process of selecting recipients for the current year. Meaghan Allen, a graduate of Dobyns-Bennett High School and a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, received the STAR Scholarship. Jesse Gilreath was completing her doctoral program in social work at the University of Tennessee when she was awarded the Inez Bailey Scholarship, and earned her Ph.D. in May of this year. Jennifer Joy Laws, an honor graduate of Northeast State Community College now enrolled in the radiology program at East Tennessee State University, received a Program for Continuing Education grant.

“It’s an international competition, and the competition is stiff,” Eileen said.

Known as the P.E.O. Sisterhood, the organization was founded in 1869 at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and is one of the oldest women’s groups in North America. There are 5,863 chapters in the United States and Canada, with 57 chapters in Tennessee and two in Kingsport (one meets during the day and one at night). The total number of active members, as of March 1, 2018, is 225,986.

With the motto “Women Helping Women Reach the Stars,” P.E.O. International supports six philanthropies to advance higher education: Educational Loan Fund, the International Peace Scholarship Fund, the Program for Continuing Education, Scholar Awards and the STAR Scholarship. The sixth is Cottey College, a four-year liberal arts and sciences college in Nevada, Missouri, owned by the Sisterhood.

“We’ve been fortunate to increase our membership with mostly younger women,” said Eileen, who taught French at Virginia High School in Bristol, Virginia, before retiring in 2004. This is her third year as chapter president.

“I’ve always been interested in education for everyone but particularly for women - to create opportunities for them to have a better life through education.”

Reservations to the P.E.O Bridge Luncheon may be made by calling Frances Frongillo at (423) 247-2783. Tickets are $24 per person! Men are welcome, too!

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