Ogden chapter of women’s group celebrates centennial
OGDEN — Holly Drew’s involvement in a little-known women’s organization goes back three generations.
“My grandmother and mother were both involved in PEO,” Drew said. “My sister and sister in-law have also been involved.”
The Philanthropic Educational Organization, or PEO, is an organization of women, by women and for women. It supports women through educational scholarships, loans, grants and awards in addition to forming friendships and the bonds of sisterhood.
PEO is one of the oldest women’s organizations in the United States. The group started by seven friends in 1869 and has grown to nearly 6,000 local chapters and more than 225,000 members across the U.S. and Canada.
The organization sponsors six philanthropies that include ownership of the women’s Cottey College and five programs that provide higher education assistance. Through fundraising and donations, PEO has given over $383 million in financial assistance to more than 116,000 women.
“I grew up in Oregon and my husband and I had a business there,” Drew said. “After we retired in 2012, we moved to Eden so my husband, Neil, could ski. He’s a former ski racer, so he’s living his dream. When we got here, I wanted to find a PEO chapter I could be involved in and that’s when I joined chapter F.”
Chapter F is one of several PEO chapters in Utah, said the organization’s president, Caroline Kueneman. The F chapter celebrated its 100th birthday on Wednesday at the Eccles Conference Center in Ogden.
“I wore pearls as a nod to our founders,” she said. “Those first ladies of our chapter back in 1923 really dressed up.”
Kueneman said she joined the organization in 2018 because she wanted to help other women achieve their goals.
“I was fairly new to the community when I met someone in PEO,” she said. “I thought it sounded really interesting. I value education and trying to help other women in the community, so I felt like this was a good place for me to put my time and energy to use. I’ve met a lot of really talented and interesting women.”
Everyone in the group has a real desire to work and raise money and give it away to women who are trying to better themselves, Kueneman said.
“There are scholarships available for women just out of high school, women coming back to the work field or entering it for the first time, women who want to be nurses or go into the arts. The organization also provides low-interest loans as well,” she said.
At the celebration Wednesday, Kueneman read the names of the first 12 women who came together to form chapter F. The group listened to other remarks from members and shared coffee and refreshments.
“We are one of the most impactful women’s organization’s out there that people have rarely or never heard of, but we have a big impact on the community,” Drew said. “It’s life changing and wonderful to hear the stories from those who have received help.”
To learn more about the organization, go to peoutah.org.