Dillon nonprofit group aims to raise money for scholarships for women | SummitDaily.com

Dillon nonprofit group aims to raise money for scholarships for women

Local photographer Bill Linfield spends most of his time behind the camera, catching shots of Summit County's wildlife. Next Thursday, Linfield will present his work in "Summit County and Beyond, a Photographer's View of Our Natural Environment." The slideshow will be part of a fundraising event benefiting the Philanthropic Educational Organization, a national nonprofit.

The local IB chapter of the Philanthropic Educational Organization, better known as the PEO, will be hosting the event on April 6, at the Dillon Community Church from 7-9 p.m. Tickets to the event are $10 and will go toward scholarships for women. After the slideshow, there will be a silent auction.

This is the fifth time Linfield has participated in the event. He has also donated two canvas photo prints and a half-day photography workshop for the silent auction. Linfield's wife and daughter, as well as his mother and sisters, are all members of the organization.

Wide reach

The PEO was founded in 1869 by seven students at the Iowa Wesleyan College. The organization is based in Des Moines, Iowa, with chapters throughout the United States and Canada. Since it was founded, the organization has grown to nearly 250,000 members. It has given out more than $247 million in scholarships and funding to nearly 99,000 women.

Summit County has two branches of the PEO — the FU chapter in Breckenridge, and the IB chapter in Dillon. Both offer scholarships for young women just graduating high school, scholarships for women returning to school as well as international scholarships and more. Both branches host fundraising events throughout the year.

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Bond of trust

Aleda Kresge, the president of the IB chapter, said that they currently have 60 members. She is hoping to have 125-200 people attend the event next week. The church donated space and Linfield donated his time for the event, ensuring that all of the funds go directly into scholarships for the IB chapter.

Kresge has been a PEO member for 40 years, the third generation in her family to join the organization. She said that there's an automatic bond of trust between PEO members.

"Its primary goal is to support women in education," she said. "We give to the community by helping young women with scholarships and education, and then the community gives back to us, so it's all a circle."

Support for success

Women do not have to be members of the organization to receive scholarships. Many young women, such as Heather Gutekunst, receive scholarships after graduating high school. Gutekunst has been taking advantage of scholarships from the PEO since graduating from Summit High School. She received a secondary education scholarship from the IB chapter last year and is applying to the program's Educational Loan Fund to help her finish her senior year at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Her older sister also received funds from the organization.

Gutekunst said that PEO helps to give women a leg up in their education. This can be a benefit in fields that lack female representation.

"Supporting these organizations that help women specifically (is) really important," she said.

Erin Sain, owner and dentist at Backcountry Family Dental, said that the scholarships she received from the PEO helped to shape her into the person she is today. After finishing the dental program at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Sain returned to Summit and became an official member of the PEO.

"Tuition and secondary education is expensive and I think it's important to help fund that and encourage women to get a higher education and come back with a good education and be successful women in the community," Sain said. "PEO is and awesome organization, and (there's) a lot of strong independent women who do great things for the community."

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