The P.E.O. sign when you drive into town. Photo courtesy of P.E.O.

By Antoinette Berthelotte 

Anyone coming into town sees the wonderful “Welcome to Idyllwild” sign. It proudly boasts insignias of numerous organizations, but one makes many scratch their head. The circle with the golden star says P.E.O, but what the heck is that?

It is a group of special women who follow the mission statement of the first P.E.O. chapter, created by seven young college women in 1869 in Iowa. Chapter UE in Idyllwild is just one of over 6,000 chapters of the international chapter of the P.E.O. sisterhood, a nonprofit Philanthropic Educational Organization. 

Who benefits from these programs and how does it work? P.E.O. celebrates the advancement and the education of women by providing scholarships, grants, awards, loans and acting as stewards to Cottey College, an accredited women’s college. They motivate and assist women to achieve their highest aspirations. In other words, “Women helping women reach for the stars.”  

Many Idyllwild recipients now have degrees and jobs due to a sisterhood of local women who believed in them.

Fundraising, such as the annual nut sales that Idyllwild’s Chapter UE used to do, depended on the generosity of their customers to help fund the educational programs. This, and gifts to the chapter also enable them to help locals with needs that are not necessarily education-related, but might be due to illness, job-loss, etc., including P.E.O.-UE’s ability to help during the Cranston Fire and the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of those benefitting from these programs are women whose goals and dreams were interrupted by marriage, children, or illness and who are ready to complete their journey. Sometimes, the only thing holding them back is just a small gift to help pay for childcare or living expenses. Chapter UE, and other chapters around the world, accomplish this by giving locally and by donating to P.E.O. state and international philanthropies. 

Using this time-tested process, P.E.O.s around the world have provided over $366 million to women to make their dreams come true. Each chapter selects and submits local candidates for one or more of the programs based on their needs and goals. 

Members of this organization are dedicated to the mission statement and to being true sisters in spirit. Their amazing power shows how local chapters can make a global impact.