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Beatrice’s P.E.O. Home celebrates 80 years of service

October 9, 2018

The P.E.O. Home in Beatrice celebrated 80 years of service on Oct. 6 with an open house.

The Philanthropic Education Organization was established by seven women at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

The mission of the P.E.O. is to “celebrate the advancement of women; educate women through scholarships, grants, awards, loans and stewardship of Cottey College and motivate women to achieve their highest aspirations.”

The membership of seven has grown to more than 225,000 members in chapters throughout the U.S. and Canada, with headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa. There are 231 chapters in Nebraska.

At one point, the P.E.O. had a home in every state. However, currently only Colorado, Idaho, California and Nebraska have homes.

The Nebraska Home was established in 1937 when Mr. and Mrs. J. Stewart Elliott of Beatrice offered their 20-room house consisting of 12 bedrooms, six baths, a double living room, dining room and library to the P.E.O. for $1.

The three-story Victorian home had been built in 1880 by Beatrice bank president J.E. Smith at the cost of $62,000. In today’s currency, $100 in 1880 is equal to $2,509 today.

In 1904, the home was sold to a wealthy railroad builder, R.E. Kilpatrick, who remodeled it five times, removing the third-story ball room and adding bay windows and an elevator. The home was willed to J. Stewart Elliott at Kilpatrick’s death.

The first three residents of the Beatrice home arrived on Sept. 1, 1938. At that time, only 12 rooms were available.

In 1955, an addition to the north of the home was built. It consists of ten private rooms with bath, a two-bed infirmary area, nurses station and a bath with a whirlpool. The architectural style of the old house was carefully emulated. This addition brought the number of private rooms to 20.

In October 2006, the P.E.O. Home in Beatrice became a licensed assisted living facility. Admission to the home is open to active members of the P.E.O. Sisterhood. Relatives of active members are also accepted.

Administrator Shari Little began her employment in January 2017.

“It’s very different from any job I’ve had before,” Little said. “This is truly a home. The staff are great and most have been here over ten years. We become close to the ladies that live here and are really a family.”

Barb Freese has been working at the home for 30 years. Currently the director of nursing, Freese said that the time has passed so quickly.

“When you enjoy what you do as much as I do, it’s not really work,” said Freese.

Lisa Helmick, past president of the Nebraska P.E.O Chapter, said two things have been constant in her life.

“P.E.O. since I was invited to be a member at 18 years of age and church,” she said.

Members of P.E.O. are invited to the sisterhood by other members.

“I benefited from the intergenerational learning and support as a P.E.O. member,” Helmick said.

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