MARTINSBURG – On Saturday June 12, members of the Philanthropic Educational Organization Chapter S of Martinsburg celebrated 45 years of supporting the advancement of women through education.
The chapter, which is part of an international network of over 6,000 chapters, was organized in 1976 by a group of local women who are passionate about women who help women succeed.
Recalling the organizers, Barbara Chakmakian of Shepherdstown remembers that March 20, 1976 was an unusually hot day. PEO members from across the state joined in the day’s celebrations.
Nettie Atkinson of Martinsburg remembers the original chapter members, many of whom were educators, as accomplished women dedicated to educating other women. Along with Chakmakian, they included Betsy Barker, Elizabeth Davis, Isabel Druschel, Helen Fenton, Virginia Keefe, Edna Phillips, Lorena Postlethwaite and Polly Parkinson, who hosted the reunion at her home on King Street. Martha Anne Druschel McIntosh of Kearneysville remembers that all of these PEOs were exceptional women who stood out in the community.
The new Chapter S members initiated that day were Atkinson, Mary Barrat, Elizabeth Byrer, Mildred Eidsness and Jess Hunter. Chakmakian and Atkinson are both graduates of Cottey College. Located in the hometown of Atkinson, Nevada, Missouri, Cottey College has been owned and supported by PEO since 1927.
One PEO sister in particular is remembered as the driving force behind the organization of the section. After moving to this region from Washington State, Helen Fenton was disappointed to find no PEO chapter to accept her transfer. Her enthusiasm and organizational skills brought together the group of unaffiliated PEOs who became the original members of Chapter S. After Fenton passed away, her husband, Floyd, established a scholarship fund in her honor. The Helen and Floyd Fenton Scholarship Fund has provided over $ 37,000 in grants to help local women continue their education.
Jillian O’Connell, a recent Fenton scholarship recipient, is the 2019 Shepherd University graduate.
âI am extremely grateful to have been selected as a Fellow through PEO,â said O’Connell. âIt helped offset the cost of textbooks as I completed the rest of my undergraduate courses. “
Today, O’Connell teaches kindergarten in Winchester.
âTeaching during a pandemic was a challenge, but I learned so much as a virtual educator. One of the first of many lessons is the importance of being flexible and adaptable.
After graduating, O’Connell became a member of PEO
âIt has been wonderful to bond with so many like-minded women through PEO. PEO not only offers assistance to women seeking to further their education, but also sees the value of outreach in the community.
PEO International is a non-profit organization that has helped over 116,000 women pursue their educational goals by providing over $ 383 million in educational assistance through six philanthropies and one foundation.
Information about PEO and applications for scholarships, grants, awards and loans is available online at www.peointernational.org, or by e-mail to PEOMartinsburg@gmail.com.