Women’s Friendship Network Invites You to Join

(Right to Left): Mary Smithers, Anita Minck, Linda Gouthro, Ruth Tecler, Betty Holland, Vivian Gentry, Fern Malloy and Judi Steffen

by Judi Steffen

Beta Sigma Phi is a non-profit, international organization established in 1931 that helps women in the world seek a wider experience in daily living. It is a non-academic sorority, founded in Kansas and is now international in membership.

I became a member in 1972 and now lead the local committee to offer this experience to other women in the Gainesville, Alachua County area.

In addition to acquiring many new friends, my Sisters have seen me through many things: my parents’ deaths eight days apart and my struggles with raising learning-disabled sons during the years when learning disabled children were seen as lazy, stupid, and worthless, even by some teachers. They were with me at times when depression brought me to the ground. They were there when I had a heart attack and open-heart surgery at the age of fifty. They were there through my husband’s illness and death, and through the subsequent financial struggles I have had.

Throughout my time living in Florida, I have had the support of Sisters in Spencer, Iowa. They were there when my beloved grandparents’ home burned to the ground in the middle of the winter. I could not go to help my grandparents, but I called the international office and was put in contact with Spencer, Iowa chapters. I subsequently received a letter from my grandmother, who was amazed when they opened the door of my aunt’s home (where they lived while their home was replaced), and a large group of women marched in, arms loaded with everything from toothpaste and clothing to pots, pans, and linens, filling one entire room with replacements of the things lost in the fire. These Sisters had never met me or my grandparents.

Locally, our groups have helped build two rooms at the Ronald McDonald House, with financial help from Sisters all over Florida. We have helped disabled children and served meals at the Fisher House. We have helped feed and clothe migrant workers, supported unwed mothers, and supported each other during serious illnesses of ourselves and our families. We have also been known to take into our homes out of town families, whose children were patients at UF Health.

For fun, we have social activities, cultural programs, and service activities as our first priorities. We meet once or twice a month for business and cultural programs, and also have social events once a month, some including husbands and extended family. Some chapters meet year-round, while others take the three summer months off. We have a council made up of members from each of the four local chapters, who coordinate our special gatherings such as Beginning Day, President’s Day, Sweetheart Recognition, and Founder’s Day.

We attend area luncheons and State Conventions put on by chapters in other cities. We hold teas, go on cruises, and attend fashion shows. We visit historic places, have dinner out, and go to plays and movies. Sometimes we play cards or board games at each other’s homes.

As members of an international organization, we help support Breast Cancer research, the Alzheimer’s Association, ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), Harvester’s Backsnack Program, and Hope for Warriors, as well as many other programs. Collectively, we have raised over $3 million dollars and have donated 200,000 volunteer hours each year.

Our international office, located in Kansas City, Missouri, also has programs for Sisters and their families, which are available when illness or disaster strikes, including a Loan Fund, a Disaster Fund and Scholarship Awards. Two local Sisters, Claudia and Ruth were beneficiaries after Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Francis. One Sister locally saw her grandson receive $1,000.00 as a scholarship award from Beta Sigma Phi. This scholarship is available to members, their children, and their grandchildren on an annual basis.

Our international offices also offer the privilege of transfer if you move to another city or country. You simply advise the international office of your new address and they will advise chapters in your new area of your arrival and desire to affiliate. Local members in your new location will call and greet you and invite you to a meeting.

One of our Sisters, Erika, when moving to Gainesville where she knew no one and was not a Beta Sigma Phi, was referred to us as a prospective member by a cousin’s wife in another city, who was a member and knew the benefits of our organization. Local chapters were notified of her arrival and she has been an active member for many years and is now a member of my committee.

In 2017, women must often leave friends and family in support of careers, spouses, education, health and other issues. Beta Sigma Phi’s international network gives assurance that in a city where you might not know one soul to share a coffee and a chat, as a transferring member, you are contacted by Sisters who are glad to meet you and invite you to their circle of friendship.

We currently have room for additional members. If you are a woman between the ages of eighteen and senior citizen and would like to meet local women with the same interests as you, we would like to invite you to a get acquainted at our gathering on Nov. 4, 2017.

If you think our organization would benefit you or a friend, please contact me at foreverfriends1931@gmail.com or at 352-378-0929.

Our membership includes nurses, secretaries, homemakers, college-educated and high school graduates, teachers, daycare workers, etc. We hope to meet you at our next event. bspinternational.org