The women of Altrusa International of the Puyallup Valley have meet weekly since 1948 to help their local community with service projects.
The women, some retired and some still working, nearly 25 years ago started looking for a way to bring in more money for the charities they support, and stumbled across the idea of putting on a fashion show. One Altrusa member, a DECA teacher at Rogers High School, was looking for a project for her students in a catering class, and the fashion show was born.
“We are very community service focused,” said member Sarah Beals. “Community service is just something that is so needed around this community.”
Fashion show proceeds will help financially support the organization and its quest to continue to serve the community.
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“We’re a professional organization that is meant to help the community,” said Eva Mae Geisert, a club member and event organizer. “It is an international organization. They have been doing different things here in the Valley. Literacy is one of the big things that we do but we do other things that need to be done.”
The group gives scholarships to parents who send their children to Puyallup Play Care, a nonprofit childcare center. The group has also helped a dental care van visit schools to reach out to children who never seen a dentist.
The chapter’s support doesn’t stop locally, either.
“We’ve bought books for kids in floods and hurricanes and started sending books so the children have something in the classroom,” Geisert said. “We also have a library in El Salvador and it’s named after one of our members. It’s for the children there who’s parents can’t afford to keep their children, so they put them in an orphanage. The orphanage is run by the priests in the area and they take help from anyone. We have books that are in Spanish and that are in English, so some of our members have gone over there with books.”
Since 1948, when the Puyallup Valley chapter of Altrusa International was formed, the women have tried all sorts of different fundraisers, but the fashion show has been a mainstay. Models from the fashion show are members of Altrusa, community members, and family and friends of the club.
“We needed something more because some of our members were moving or leaving, so we needed something to make money,” Geisert said. “It’s been a fun thing for us to do.”
The Puyallup Valley chapter is also looking for new members to join their community service-based organization. When Geisert first joined the organization more than 30 years ago, the chapter had 45 members; membership now has fallen to 30.
“We’re the opposite of Rotary or the Kiwanis,” Geisert said. “We are mostly made up of female members, but seven years ago we made it a female and male organization, but there aren’t many male members because they think it’s sissy or something. Those that are in work very hard. We joke about it because our group has males, and we call them ‘Altrousers’ just because they come and they work very hard at things.”
When a potential member attends a meeting, they are assigned to a sponsor. The sponsor ensures that the potential member is getting connected to club members, and ensures they are more likely to come back.
“It’s so they don’t feel left out or a stone on a log,” Geisert said. “This really works out well if you can introduce them and sit with them, and do different things together.”
For member Sarah Beals, she says the group is a really fun group of ladies. When she attended the Altrusa conference, the sense of camaraderie she developed was unique.
“It was like I had known these ladies my whole life even though I just met them,” she said.
For more information on the Puyallup Valley Chapter of Altrusa International, visit www.altrusapuyallup.org.
The Puyallup Valley Chapter of Altrusa International’s fashion show is slated for 1 p.m. Saturday (April 25) at the United Methodist Church, 1919 W. Pioneer in Puyallup. To buy a ticket, call 253-845-3475 or 253-848-3047.