By Jasmine Willis
DANSVILLE — A dose of holiday cheer was needed right before many headed off for safe travels on Thanksgiving Weekend.
The Dansville Beta Sigma Phi Chapter held its annual Penny Social event at the Dansville Moose Lodge. It has been a large source of family entertainment for over 30 years. It serves as the largest fundraiser for the lady’s group.
Wendy Howe, Beta Sigma Phi president and 50-year-chapter member said the group started as an International Women Society in 1939 in Kansas City. The Dansville Chapter formed not long after that in 1944. The group at one point had 30 or 40 members, but as many of these organizations tend to do the members drop. Now there are 14 members in the society. Four of them are 50 year or more members.
“When I joined the society there were only about four of us. It was a very small group of ladies. I think age has a lot to do with it. We are an independent group, and a lot of us are retired,” Howe said. “The Penny Social is our biggest fundraiser of the year. We always do very well with it. People line up outside to come in for this event. We are told we have the best one all year long.”
Howe mentioned what the society has done or continues to do from time to time. In the past they would go door to door to sell candles to people in the area. The society supplies clothes for newborn babies at Noyes Hospital.
“Our main focus is to help the children. We have donated a lot to Noyes Hospital. When we started out the old hospital was at the other building on Main Street. Our society pledged about $3,000 to Noyes Hospital when they had it built,” she said. “I joined this group in 1969 after a friend recruited me into it. I have been part of it for 50 years now, and it has always been a very nice organization. We do a lot of things other people don’t do. In the start we would be out all night working on projects, but we are all getting older now.”
The society has donated for Children Christmas at the Dansville Moose Lodge. They have done things at the old school (now the GCC). In the glory days the society would be Mrs. Claus and the Elves for the Dogwood Parade for many years.
“We are all a very close tight-knit family. We lost one charter member in the 1980s. We have a scholarship in her name that goes to a graduating senior every year. We offer it to one who has done something in community service,” Howe said.
Howe worked at the Craig Developmental Center for a few years as well. It was there she understood compassion for those who needed it most.
“We took children from the Craig Colony out for birthday parties. It was a huge eye opener for a lot of people. It was really fulfilling for us to do that, and those children touched our lives,” she said. “They moved so many of them out of there to homes, and then closed down the colony to make a prison. I made a lot of good friends there, and we all got very attached to those kids.”
Sharon Dixon, 59 years member; Sharon Murphy, 55 years member; and Mary Kay, 51 years member join Howe in the 50-plus group. These ladies have found a lot to be proud of in this society.
“The friendships we have all found between the ladies in the society is my favorite part,” Howe said. “We do a Woman of The Year award in our little group. It goes to someone who goes above and beyond what they are assigned to do. The ladies really look forward to that.”
Carol Rittenhouse, Beta Sigma Phi treasurer joined the society in 1982. She said it was one of the famous four who brought her in, Sharon Murphy.
“I used to go to all of these events with Sharon. My husband died in 1980, and I was looking to get involved in something. It makes me feel good to be helping the community when they have hardships like fires or a bad illness,” Rittenhouse said. “I have never regretted being part of this group. When someone is sick they get a yellow rose, which is our society flower. We are one of the best societies to be part of.”
The baskets came from many of the members and gift certificates came from merchants in the area.