Doing More Together

One Tote at a Time

Wisconsin chapters joining forces to make a bigger impact.

Imagine investing 400 hours in purchasing, decorating, filling, and distributing 87 tote bags full of much-needed supplies to some of the folks in need in your community. Sounds a bit daunting for one person, doesn’t it?

Luckily, many hands make light work, and work fun!

Fun was the order of the day when three small but mighty Royal Neighbors chapters in Southern Wisconsin decided to join forces to provide totes containing personal care products and school supplies to women’s shelters, schools, and elderly residents in their area. Neighboring chapters 270 in Bagley, 1685 in Beetown, and 2648 in Boscobel partnered with the Royal Neighbors Home Office to coordinate a special gathering at which each chapter shared ideas, made lasting connections, and pooled together their resources to make an impact far greater than one chapter could make on its own.

Barb Detra, event planner for Chapter 2648, was excited to have her chapter participate in this particular service project. “We find ways to give back to the community that fit our talents, but also our limitations. We’re not always able to do physically demanding work, but all of the ladies had so much fun getting creative and decorating the totes.”

Chapter 2648 chose to donate its totes to a domestic violence shelter and, although the recipients remained anonymous, many of the chapter members took extra care to send special messages to those going through a hard time. Barb recalls, “One of the members really enjoyed designing totes with words of encouragement: Peace, Love, Joy, Hope. She said she wanted to encourage the person and let them know they’re not alone.”

While there were 16 members of Barb’s chapter at the main gathering, other members pitched in to fill bags when they could. “We always try to include anyone who wants to help. For this project, we met some members at our local senior center, and we visited another member at her home. It isn’t always easy for people to get around, so we go to them whenever possible,” says Barb.

Similarly, Lavon Schurman, secretary-treasurer of Chapter 270, was pleased that any member who wanted to participate, could participate. “One of our 91-year-old members has a hard time steadying her hand, so she didn’t think she would be able to help decorate. When she found out that she could paint with stencils, she was unstoppable! She made several totes at the event and finished 11 more all on her own.”

Chapter 270 opted to distribute some totes to the domestic violence shelter, some to the local school district for underprivileged students, and a few to elderly and homebound individuals in the community. “We don’t have one specific group that we focus on supporting, but rather, we help where help is needed,” says Lavon.

Lauri Schwantes, secretary-treasurer of Chapter 1685, was instrumental in bringing this event to fruition. Although her chapter is known for supporting their local blood bank through blood drives that include a free meal for donors (making them very popular!), she jumped at the opportunity to provide some comfort to women and children at the women’s shelter. “So many women who end up in the shelter have nothing but the clothes on their back when they arrive, so we filled their totes with personal care products, but also make-up and nail polish, which are items that women in shelters typically do not receive,” explains Lauri.

While each chapter enjoyed being able to make a bigger impact by teaming up with their neighboring chapters, the newfound camaraderie was the real draw for the participants. According to Barb, “There’s nothing quite like listening and talking to people who are equally passionate about helping others.”

We help where help is needed.

~ Lavon Schurman

The three chapters are already planning their next event for the summer, which includes celebrating Chapter 1685’s 120th Anniversary. “I’m glad we were able to come together; our chapter doesn’t feel so isolated in Beetown anymore,” says Lauri. “We’ve been right next door to each other, but we were finally able to put faces to names, share ideas, and come together for a common cause. I’m excited to do it again.”