Women helping women: How Geneva PEO raises funds for scholarships, supports education

When women get together for a common cause, it is sometimes called a "sisterhood."

Some of those sisterhoods have passed the test of time with flying colors, and plenty of women in the Tri-Cities area belong to one such organization.

Founded more than 150 years ago, the Philanthropic Education Organization is one of North America's largest women's organizations, boasting 5,800 chapters, with two in Batavia, four in St. Charles and one in Geneva.

Considering the organization's mission is to help women pursue an education and life goals, this is indeed a sisterhood.

The Geneva chapter, the largest in the Fox Valley with 74 members, is preparing to host an important event by bringing back its garage sale fundraiser from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9 through Sunday, Sept. 11, at 402 S. Sixth St. in Geneva, at the southwest corner of Sixth and Fulton streets.

The Geneva PEO chapter, which rotates its twice-a-month meetings at members' homes, was quick to vote its approval to pursue the garage sale.

"Several years ago, we had a sale, and it was quite successful," said Cathy Rex, the chairwoman of the group's ways and means committee. "With a lot of members moving and downsizing, I thought we should try it again."

Rex has to think of such things because her main job as committee chair is "to come up with fundraising ideas," she noted.

Group members are volunteering to work the three-day event, and the organization is hoping shoppers will be lured by such items as three sets of Lenox china dinnerware; glassware; silver pieces; a queen-size headboard and frame; artwork; mirrors; lamps; furniture; purses; a potted iris for transplanting, and numerous other articles.

So many donations came in, Rex said, that she had to ask a neighbor across the street to open their driveway to showcase holiday-related items.

Money raised helps women seeking higher education, provides scholarships for women from other countries to assist with graduate studies, and provides need-based grants to women in the U.S. and Canada seeking to return to school to complete a degree/certification program.

Savannah Guthrie of the Today Show may be in the middle of some sort of disagreement with NBC, but that doesn't diminish the fact that she benefited greatly from a PEO scholarship.

"Savannah was given a scholarship reward that helped her go to law school," Rex said. "She didn't have the money to do it, but the scholarship helped her launch her career."

Numerous women seeking more education who don't have the notoriety of an anchor on a popular morning TV show have also benefited over the years.

"We also provide substantial merit-based awards to women in the U.S. and Canada who are pursuing doctoral-level degrees and to young women in their final year of high school who will attend an accredited postsecondary institution the following year," Geneva chapter President Lisa Haymond said.

In addition to the good vibes the local women deliver in helping other women since 1927, the PEO has owned and supported Cottey College in the city of Nevada, Missouri, Haymond noted. Cottey College is a nationally-ranked, fully-accredited, independent liberal arts and sciences college for women.

At the moment, all focus is on setting up the garage sale. It's hard to say if the garage sale being held in the same general neighborhood and on the same weekend as Geneva's Festival of the Vine will be a good or bad omen.

"We planned this sale six months ago, thinking that Festival of the Vine was the following weekend," Rex said. "But we're not too concerned about that because a garage sale is busy in the morning, and Festival of the Vine gets busy later in the day and at night."

Sticks and more at Holmstad

Planners of the annual bazaar at Covenant Living at the Holmstad in Batavia point to the woodwork of Batavian Richard MacFeely as a vital component of this year's sale.

MacFeely has been working in his wood shop to create various walking sticks, each of which takes anywhere from two to three weeks to complete.

Shoppers will have the chance to purchase a walking stick and various other items at the fall event, open to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, at The Holmstad, 700 W. Fabyan Parkway.

"There is a rich history of walking sticks to research, and the materials offer inspiration - interesting woods or possibilities for handles," MacFeely said in a news release about the sale, now in its 44th year. "More importantly, I'm grateful that this is an opportunity for me to use my woodworking skills to support the Benevolent Care Fund that helps our residents in need."

Kids busy with business

I made it to the annual Geneva Commons' Children's Business Fair last weekend, a half-hour before the marketplace closed. It was enough time to meet some outstanding young entrepreneurs promoting their businesses.

Mailey Smith, a 9-year-old from Batavia, had all sorts of items at her "Mailey's Fantastic Homemade Figets" booth. She said she had worked on getting her items together for the past month, and she sold me a small bracelet for my granddaughter.

A few booths away, 9-year-old Gunnar Adams of Geneva talked me into buying a clay dinosaur kit in which a child can try to create the dinosaur pictured in the package with the different colors of nontoxic, natural clays.

The name of Gunnar's business? "Clay with Me," of course.

Festival of the Vine is moving this year to James Street between Fourth and Fifth streets. Its hours will be noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 9-10, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, with ticket sales ending a half hour before the festival closes. Courtesy of Geneva Chamber of Commerce

Fest makes its move

Just a reminder that if you drive along State Street in Geneva next weekend and don't see big crowds gathering in the North Fourth Street parking lot for wine and food, as in years past, it's because the Festival of the Vine has moved.

The annual fall event unfolds a bit south at James and Fourth streets this year, thus eliminating the potentially dangerous task of attendees crossing a busy State Street.

Police who have stopped traffic to keep people safe when crossing likely won't complain about this change. They were pretty close to moving cars often as part of this equation.

Commons to add dining

A new restaurant is taking over the former Bar Louie site in the Geneva Commons, as owner Carlos Arechiga is expanding his El Jefe Mexican restaurant operations.

Arechiga currently operates El Jefe restaurants in Aurora and Yorkville. One of his managers confirmed the El Jefe team would be busy preparing the Bar Louie site for the next several months.

Last spring, we noted breakfast restaurant First Watch cafe had signed a lease to take over the empty Claddagh Irish Pub location just south of Bar Louie.

With those two sites eventually operating, the Commons only needs someone to take over the former Houlihan's site to bring plenty of dining options to complement the shopping center along Randall Road.

GPS better than memory

It was an honor to be invited to the recent retirement party of Daily Herald high school sports editor John Radtke - and to be part of a group photo representing plenty of longtime prep sports reporters from the Fox Valley.

My early career in journalism centered on high school sports, and I later covered games as a freelancer for the Herald. I've known most of these writers for the better part of more than four decades.

The party was held at Moretti's Ristorante and Pizzeria in Bartlett.

Because this event would bring back memories from years ago, I must have thought I could stick with the same old-school way of navigating the local highways that got me to area prep sports games for years.

That means I was going to drive to Moretti's simply by memory. I was sure I knew where it was and that driving there from Geneva would not be an issue: Go north on Route 59 and turn on Lake Street (Route 20).

That didn't go so well. My brain reminded me that the memory lobe is somewhat worn out and delivered a simple message - if you haven't gone to or driven past a place in more than 30 years, you might want to try using the technology on your iPhone to guide you.

I turned right on Lake Street off Route 59 when I should have gone left. And I drove and drove and drove.

It finally dawned on me that Moretti's certainly was not in Schaumburg, and Bartlett would not magically show up if I kept traveling east on Lake Street.

Sure enough, a bit of a drive heading back west turned out to be the proper choice. Well, it was the only choice. My memory bank didn't pick up on that on the first pass.

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