by: LINDSAY KEEFER - Roberta Campbell (left) and Carol Eaden, 50-year members of PEO Chapter J, hold up the club's charter from May 20, 1914.It has been 100 years since a ladies organization was started in Woodburn, and since then local women have been raising money for scholarships and forging friendships.

PEO (Philanthropic Education Organization) Chapter J was started May 20, 1914 by ladies in notable Woodburn families, namely Mabel Settlemier and Lida Poorman.

“The first chapter in a state starts with an A, so we’re the 10th in Oregon,” Margaret Ann Lindell, Chapter J’s past president, explained.

Current members speculate the charter members started it for the same reason PEO members keep going today: to raise money for women’s education.

For years, Chapter J members have worked on various fundraisers, from selling pies to hosting garage sales to holding bunco tournaments, so they can provide two to three scholarships to local young women each year. The group also pays toward five national scholarships and three statewide scholarships.

While it has a healthy 40 members today, the charter group only had about 15 ladies. In the mid-1960s, it ballooned to so many members that it had to branch off to another chapter. That’s how PEO Chapter DT, also in Woodburn, was born.

“You want it small enough so you’re able to get to know everyone in your chapter,” Roberta Campbell, a 51-year PEO member, said.

PEO was started in 1879 on the Iowa Wesleyan College campus and was similar to a sorority.

“They didn’t form for education but for the sisterhood, the friendship,” Campbell said. “The idea of scholarships came along later.”

One hundred forty-five years later, PEO spans the U.S. and Canada, owns and supports Cottey College in Nevada, Mo., promotes belief in God, though it’s not affiliated with any specific church, and is invitation-only.

“You get an invitation out of the blue,” Campbell said. “I remember sitting by my hearth, opening the mail, and there was an invitation. I was floored. I admired ladiesby: SUBMITTED - The ladies of PEO Chapter J gather outside the Settlemier House at their club's 100th birthday tea party Saturday. in the group and it was such an honor to be asked to join.”

In Carol Eaden’s 50 years as a member, she said the most memorable experiences have been the two times she’s had the opportunity to go to the international conventions.

“It’s real educational because you meet PEOs from all over,” she said. “They’re terrific. One of those times, I went directly from international to see my grandson, who had just been born.”

The warm nature of the women in the PEO chapters is evident no matter where you are, according to Lindell, who has moved a few times since being initiated into PEO in 1981.

“You can walk into each chapter and you it feels like home,” she said. “It’s so welcoming and very comfortable.”

Perhaps part of the reason it feels like home to Lindell is that PEO membership has become a family affair: Her mother was a PEO member and now her daughter is involved. Eaden and Campbell also have daughters in PEO.

“My mom was there when my daughter was initiated,” Lindell said. “Daughters can join at age 18.”

The sisterhood extends to scholarship recipients as well.

“We send them goodies in college and stay in contact,” Lindell said. “It’s nice to have the girls come to our meetings too.”

PEO Chapter J celebrated its 100th birthday with a tea party on Saturday at the Settlemier House.

Despite the celebration of the past 100 years and the thousands of dollars raised toward scholarships, PEO sisters, as they call themselves, are looking to the future.

“One hundred years from now, we’ll just be doing more of the same,” Campbell said. “Funding women’s education is why we’re here.”

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