Q&A: Meet One of the New Canaan Chapters of P.E.O.


For this, our final installment of a Q&A series with local service groups, we put questions to New Canaan resident Laura Dijs of the local chapter of the Philanthropic Education Organization, or “P.E.O.”

P.E.O. does many things on behalf of women—celebrating with advancement, helping with education and motivating women to “achieve their highest aspirations.”

Here’s our exchange with Dijs, president of the local chapter.

L-R: Laura Dijs, Kristin Santella and Kathy Johnston. Contributed

New Canaanite: Is P.E.O. in New Canaan part of a national or international organization? If so, please provide details of that organization, such as the year it started, its size and scope.

Dijs: P.E.O. (Philanthropic Education Organization) is an international organization with members in the U.S. and Canada. We were founded in 1869 by seven young ladies at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and look forward to celebrating our 150-year anniversary in 2019. We have approximately 235,000 members, 1,135 in CT, representing 33 CT Chapters. New Canaan has two Chapters, one meets during the day, the other meets evenings.

Please tell us a little about P.E.O. here in New Canaan itself. When was the chapter founded, how many members does it have and how often do those members meet? Also, please let us know how members may inquire about joining.

L-R: Dorcas Hills of P.E.O., Emma Dahill and Laura Turner on June 1, 2017. Contributed

Chapter N, the day chapter, was founded in 1963, we currently have 48 members, and we meet twice a month during the school year. Membership inquiries may be directed to Chapter N President Laura Dijs at Lauradijs@aol.com.

Talk to us about local impact. What project or projects can you highlight to give our readers an idea of what P.E.O. has accomplished here in town?

P.E.O.’s mission is promoting educational opportunities for women. Our sisterhood proudly makes a difference in women’s lives with six philanthropies that include Cottey College, an independent, liberal arts and sciences college for women, and five programs that provide higher educational assistance: P.E.O. Educational Loan Fund, P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship Fund, P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education, P.E.O. Scholar Awards and P.E.O. STAR Scholarship. P.E.O.

We recently awarded a Continuing Education Grant to Evelyn Gavrillidis, and have awarded several to New Canaan women returning to school, and a STAR Scholarship to recent NCHS graduate Emma Dahill. We support International Students who are often advanced degree candidates at Yale, Columbia, or NYU, and have in the past awarded Scholar Awards to New Canaan doctoral students, and have provided loans to New Canaan college students. We are always looking for local women that we can support in their education endeavors, and would welcome inquiries.

In addition to supporting our six philanthropies, we work with New Canaan Human Services to support a New Canaan family with food and gifts at Easter and Christmas, we collect and deliver toiletries to the Food Pantry once a month, and we provide and arrange flowers for the Waveny Care Center dining room for the month of November annually. Last September we also provided books to schools and students in Louisiana effected by the flooding.

How does P.E.O. raise funds?

Each P.E.O. Chapter has it’s own individual way of raising funds. There is no requirement to raise funds as a Chapter, and some Chapters are better able to raise funds than others. Chapter N has one fundraiser a year, which is an auction held at the home of a member. What started out 50 years ago with a small event raising perhaps $100, has grown each year and now raises thousands, all of which goes to our philanthropies and local New Canaan charities.

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