Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Altrusa a little-known "do-gooder" in the community


"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

This quote is attributed to Margaret Mead, but it most certainly applies to a small group of women with whom I had the pleasure of visiting as their guest speaker last evening.

The Peoria Chapter of Altrusa, International is comprised of a group of local, distinguished women from all walks of life - some retired professionals, others still in the workforce - all with the same mission: to volunteer their energies and expertise in projects dedicated to community betterment. They promote volunteerism, service, and have a passion for literacy and the general well-being among children in our community.

On this night they were "wrapping up" (no pun intended) one of their fundraisers - selling gift wrap - which netted more than $800 to be used to facilitate a number of service goals including (but not limited to) monetary, literary or other "wish list" items for people and agencies in need.

In addition, bags and bags of hats, gloves and mittens were piled on the table next to them - donations to the kids at Irving Primary, a school that Peoria Altrusa has taken under their wing.

They are also responsible for providing baby's first book to new moms and their infants at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. Nothing like getting kids on the reading bandwagon from the get-go! These active women also assisted in painting walls at WomenStrength, provide tutoring and assist with at-risk children within the public school system. They are in the process of offering an Altrusa Scholarship through Illinois Central College to assist a single mom or middle-aged woman trying to further her education.

Altrusa is not a new organization. It was founded by Dr. Alfred Durham, a member of Kiwanis, in Nashville in 1917. Record numbers of women were going to work during World War I and Dr. Durham saw the need for a women's civic organization. Mamie L. Bass, who served as the Superintendent of the Women's Division US Employment Services saw a higher vision for Dr. Durham's idea and through her hard work Altrusa became a classified service organization for women in 1918.

Altrusa International now has more than 17,500 members in 538 clubs in nearly every state as well as in other countries such as England, Russia, India and Ireland. They are at heart a grassroots organization that seeks to solve the problems in their own backyards. Inspired by Thoreau, Mamie L. Bass put it best when she said, "It is not enough to be good; Altrusans must be good for something." In fact, their name is an acronym for "Amity, Loyalty, Talent, Reciprocity, Unity, Service and Achievement".

I was honored to be a guest speaker at their monthly meeting last evening. I was humbled to be in the midst of so much talent, wisdom, professionalism and generosity to the community. I would encourage any of you interested in learning more about the Peoria Altrusa to contact Janet Reist at (309)635-0983.

Sidenote: When meeting with Altrusa, I mentioned their need for a website, and they agreed. If anyone is interested in partnering with me for the design side, I'm interested in making this happen for them.

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