Have you ever used the word “vinaceous” in a sentence?
In my case the sentence might read: “Barry’s face was vinaceous after he couldn’t spell that word at the Altrusa‘s DeKalb County Spelling Bee.”
My embarrassment came after our team consisting of Jan Docherty, Katrina Milton and myself did not get the word right so we were eliminated midway through the evening. I should have known since it meant “reddish like the color of wine.” Living in one of California’s wine country appellations for 35 years, I must have seen that word at some time in my life. The winning team from Youth Engaged in Philanthropy spelled “tangential” and “accrued” correctly to take home the traveling trophy.
Now those two words I could spell.
Behind the evening’s charitable event is a little known group of women called Altrusans. The organization was first organized back in 1917 when women were going to work in support of World War I and there was a need for women’s civic involvement as well. It is interesting to note that a male Kiwanian from Nashville, Tennessee, came up with the idea and organized clubs in Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. It grew and evolved through the efforts of Mamie Bass who was once superintendent of the U.S. Employment Services and had helped her brother organize a Rotary Club in Indianapolis earlier, even though women were not permitted to join. Today Altrusa International exists in 15 countries. Their original mission was promoting education and literacy and now includes environmental concerns among other programs.
The DeKalb County chapter is more than 50 years old and had more than 30 members at one time but now stands at 15. Their president Joy Gulotta said the international organization approved the admission of men several years ago but they have yet to invite males locally. I was impressed that such a small number of people can accomplish so much good. The $5,000 they raised in one night will be spread among community organizations that apply for grants. They meet twice a month most of the year and enjoy social activities as well as fundraising.
Joy added that their name is synonymous with altruism, which means doing for other people without expecting anything in return. I think the reward they get for their efforts is the satisfaction knowing how much good their grants will do for groups throughout the county.
Anyone interested in their organization can contact their president at 815-751-8738.
The columnist can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL 60115. His past columns can be found on his website www.dekalbcountylife.com.