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Local P.E.O. chapters bridging path to higher education

Deborah Peterson • Aug 25, 2019 at 9:39 AM

Bridge, anyone? For several years now, a dedicated group of Kingsport women have hosted a unique fundraiser. The Kingsport Chapter V of the international P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization) holds an annual Bridge Luncheon fundraiser to help raise funds for scholarships, grants and low-interest loans for women seeking to further their education. Not just any bridge game, this event helps to change women’s lives. Bridge players across the area can have a hand in helping to support this worthy cause at the upcoming fundraiser on Sept. 24.

This year, the two Kingsport P.E.O. chapters, BD and V, are proud to have a local recipient of the coveted Star Scholarship. Dobyns-Bennett High School graduate Holly Bevins, who was nominated by the BD Chapter, was chosen to receive the $2,500 scholarship. Vicki Kalonick with Chapter BD said, “It’s a pretty big deal because P.E.O. had 2,200 people who applied for it. They gave only 880 women that scholarship. It wasn’t easy to get, so we’re real proud of her.”

Holly, who will major in nursing at East Tennessee State University this fall, said she is thrilled and grateful to receive this scholarship.

“I was not expecting it at all, and I thank God for putting this in my lap,” she said. She praised the women of P.E.O. for all they have done to help her with the scholarship. “They have been great to me. They’re a really good group of women,” she said. Holly’s involvement in volunteer work during high school was likely one factor in her being chosen for this award. She was a member of HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America), a chapter sponsored by Dobyns-Bennett. All throughout high school, she volunteered at the Friendship Diner soup kitchen at First Broad Street United Methodist Church. As a volunteer coordinator, Holly often brought other students to help at the kitchen on weekends. She was also an officer in the Beta Club.

Kingsport resident Kimberly Stambaugh was the 2018 recipient of the ELF award (Educational Loan Fund). After being out of the work force to be a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, she later found it necessary to return to school. Kimberly said the low-interest loan made it possible for her to enroll at Emmanuel Christian Seminary at Milligan College.

“It was truly God providing a means in His plan for my life, in the midst of devastation, through the ELF program of P.E.O., Chapter V,” she said. “They really are a group of women helping women, across the age span,” she added.

In addition to the ELF award and the Star Scholarship, P.E.O. provides several other types of financial aid, including the Scholar Award for those pursuing a doctoral level degree, the PCE grant (Program for Continuing Education), and the International Peace Scholarship for foreign exchange students.

Eileen Garner, Chapter V vice-president, enjoys being a part of the P.E.O. A retired French language teacher, she is passionate about the opportunity to help women achieve an education at any age. She also enjoys the camaraderie it brings. “It’s the nicest group of women I’ve ever met. They’re all very supportive of each other and do a lot of good with the scholarships that they provide,” she said.

BD Chapter President Linda Fisher also expressed her interest in helping women achieve their educational goals. “It’s been important for me to be able to work with an organization that can identify women who have had their education interrupted because of life’s circumstances, and to provide them with the means to pick up on an education and continue,” she said.

The P.E.O. Bridge Luncheon Fundraiser will be held at First Presbyterian Church on 100 West Church Circle from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 24. Coffee and pastries will be served at 9:30 a.m. There will be door prizes, as well as prizes for the winning players. The cost to participate is $26, which includes lunch.

You need not be an expert player but must have a basic knowledge of the game. “Participants just need to have some knowledge of the game, even if not very experienced,” said Eileen. Non-players who would like to support the fundraiser can make a donation as well.

All proceeds go to scholarships, grants and low-interest loans for women pursuing an education. To enter the fundraiser or to make a donation, please call Frances Frongillo at (423) 863-5312.

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