SIDNEY — Members of the Alpha Psi Chapter of Epsilon Sigma Alpha International gathered Monday, May 15, to celebrate one of their own.
The sorority paid tribute to Clara Kerber, of Sidney, as she was awarded a pin for 65 years of active membership. During a potluck dinner in the Sidney home of fellow member Diane Snider, Kerber received certificates and flowers as well as the congratulations of her sorority sisters.
The community chapter was established in Sidney in 1950 and Kerber joined two years later. The international organization was originally founded as a philanthropic and educational organization for professional women. There are now 800 chapters and 10,000 members worldwide. Kerber is believed to be the only 65-year member in Ohio.
“I lived in Botkins and worked in Wapakoneta,” Kerber said in explaining why she had joined those many years ago. “I had a girlfriend who talked me into doing it. I would take the bus from Wapak to Sidney. She would pick me up. I’d go to the meeting, stay overnight in Sidney, and then take the bus back to Wapak to work twice a month.”
These days, the group meets just once a month, usually at a member’s home. In the past, one meeting each month was social and one was educational. They’d arrange for programs by local business representatives or lead arts and crafts activities themselves. Rules are much less stringent now than they used to be.
“You were afraid to say anything because you might break a rule. And it used to be if you went to a meeting and didn’t wear your (sorority) pin, you got fined,” Kerber said.
Meetings now are relaxed and members are free to say whatever they want. Lots of laughter punctuates the get-togethers. All the women have made friends in other chapters. Sue Krites, of Sidney, who has held state offices in the organization, has made friends across the country.
For the last 41 years, they have managed the paging booth at the Shelby County Fair. It’s the major fundraiser; however, they also have had New Year’s Eve dances, buckeye candy sales, fashion shows, baby photo contests, breakfasts with Santa and the Easter bunny and bike rides.
“Remember those fur things?” laughed Snider as she reminisced also with Sharon Wooddell, Linda Temple, Karen Lantz, Mary O’Boyle and Deb Wooddell, all of Sidney, Andi Jenkins, of Huntsville, and Ginny Lochard, of Maplewood. The “fur things” were table decorations constructed from acrylic furry fabric.
“You’d comb it and hairspray it,” Kerber said. And then the decorations were sold.
Jenkins remembered making and selling candy.
“Diane’s mom and dad owned Jack’s Snack Shop. We made literally a ton of candy (there). We sold it in various factories,” she said.
“We’ve done scads of things,” Kerber added.
The funds they’ve raised have supported many local nonprofits and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, which is a charity supported by the international sorority.
“It’s not our fault that we have fun while we’re doing this,” Krites said.
And fun they’ve had. Even their husbands have got in on the merriment. At two state conventions, the men dressed in drag for a fashion show.
“It was just hilarious,” Kerber said. She laughed more as she recalled squatting and waddling onstage, quacking like a duck during a skit at a Columbus convention. The local group has hosted conventions in Sidney. Not everything went like clockwork every time, however.
“We hired a speaker at Sidney High School. We had an auditorium full of people and he never showed up. For intermission, we’d hired a group — something 5 from Sidney High School. They played for awhile,” Kerber said.
“But we don’t let difficult things cow us,” Jenkins chimed in. “We get together and manage to do it.”
“And sometimes, they turn out better than we thought they would,” added Krites.
The most difficult project is always the fair. The members get all the advertisements they read from the paging booth and have to schedule shifts to cover the hours the fair is open. They sometimes recruit family members to help.
“It lasts all week,” said O’Boyle. But it takes months of preparation in advance.
The result is that this year, Alpha Psi was able to make donations to Wilson Hospice, Wilson Foundation for juvenile diabetes patients, Agape Distribution, the Alpha Center, Compassionate Care, FISH, the Elizabeth Life Center, Wilma Valentine Childcare, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Salvation Army, and the fund for the Nancy Waymire Scholarship, which was established in memory of Snider’s mother, who was also an Alpha Psi member.
The sorority is eager to welcome new members. For information, call Krites at 492-5165.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.