In these strange and unsettling times we are happy to have an occasion to celebrate 50 years of service! As we began this year knowing our sister Helen would be reaching her 50th year of membership in our P.E.O. Sisterhood, Chapter B, Newark Valley, N.Y., sisters began planning a grand celebration for June 2. We planned for a party at our meeting complete with cake, balloons, tributes, gifts, etc. That celebration would be followed by recognition (special procession, seating, and a luncheon) at the annual N.Y.S. P.E.O. Convention scheduled for Jun 5-7 in Binghamton, N.Y. at the Doubletree Inn.
Well, along came the pandemic. All venues closed, the convention cancelled, in- person meetings not allowed at all.
Helen De Haan was initiated into Chapter B, Newark Valley, N.Y. on June 2, 1970. P.E.O Sisterhood is an international Philanthropic Educational Organization that assists women in achieving their education. It provides grants and loans along with practical support to women seeking to further their dreams.
From the beginning, Helen recognized that this was a perfect fit for her. Helen values education and believes strongly in creating opportunities for women. She put herself though college, graduating in 1962 with a B.S. degree from Mansfield University. Later, while teaching full-time, she drove to Syracuse for graduate classes, achieving her Masters degree in Library Sciences in 1970.
She served (serves still) on many committees, held offices (Guard, Vice President, President) many times including serving as President of Chapter B five times. She served on the NYS Chapter Scholarship Committee and as the N.Y.S. P.E.O. Historian.
Most recently she was directly involved and instrumental in assisting Katrina Eucker with her successful bid for the competitive P.E.O. STAR Scholarship – a $2,500.00 grant awarded to a high school student. Helen even has a personalized license plate: PEO B!
In her own community she volunteers in many ways—via church, food pantry, and was a poem contributor to The Moonlighter. Helen retired after 29 years from the Newark Valley Central School District where she worked as a Library Media Specialist in the elementary school (Nathan T. Hall) and initially in Edwin R. Eastman Elementary School. Following her retirement, Helen was elected to the Newark Valley School Board on which she served for 12 years.
As you can see, Helen is a dedicated volunteer and worthy of great celebration.
A surprise parade was organized; decorations would be sneaked onto the front lawn while one sister distracted Helen, beautiful and tasty cupcakes delivered by another sister. A decorated lawn chair would serve as a ‘throne’ for our Queen Bee. (As chapter B we tend to adopt a bee theme often.)
The original thought was to have an in-person parade while maintaining “social distance” with sisters walking by, congratulating Helen, thanking her for her dedication to our P.E.O. Sisterhood, etc. Ellen Snapp, our current Chapter B President, checked with the Health Department and they would not recommend that idea because the gathering could reach more than 10 easily; however, a car parade would be okay. Sigh, okay, adapting again we (most of us) decorated our vehicles and arranged to drive by. Sister Nikki Schreiner (Helen’s dearest friend) visited Helen and kept her occupied out back, sister Pattie Engbith set up and decorated a ‘throne’ and a table for gifts and the delicious cupcakes made by sister Robin Novi.
We paraded by honking and hollering out our congratulations, but quickly found that to be unsatisfying. Many sisters parked and took turns approaching within a safe distance to share our happiness and gratitude. We were careful not to exceed the 10-person limit. She was pleased and overwhelmed with our surprise and gifts. A gift to Helen’s favorite P.E.O. project, the Educational Loan Fund (ELF), was donated in her honor.
When you see Helen please congratulate her and thank her for all her dedication and hard work!