Beta Sigma Phi International, founded in 1931, is a non-academic sorority with 200,000 members in chapters around the world. The sorority was founded for the social, cultural, and civic enrichment of its members, and on March 27, 2002, Mobile's Laureate Upsilon, with 10 members, became a charter chapter of the sorority.
The group is still relatively small, but what they do for their community is significant. Of particular interest to the chapter is McKemie Place, an overnight shelter for homeless women in Mobile. For the past 8 years, members have prepared and shared a monthly meal with the women and, said Peggy Sawyer, "This has been our most rewarding service." When they began making the meals, the population averaged 30-35 women a night; now the average is 60-70.
"We serve home-cooked meals on the first Wednesday," she said. A typical meal consists of an entree--pork loin, for instance--vegetables, tea and dessert. The sorority also provides the paper plates, cups, bowls, tableware and even ice for the women's drinks.
Laureate Upsilon has done more than make meals, however. "In 2008, we found out that the ladies were having to take cold showers, as their hot water heater was broken. We gave an 80-gallon water heater and also supplied an ice maker so they could have ice all the time. And every holiday, we give items related to the season--Easter baskets, sunglasses, hats, coats, gloves," Sawyer said.
A little fun is added along the way. Member Minnie Vogtner recalled a fashion show the chapter staged which, she said, "They (McKemie Place residents) really enjoyed."
To earn money to provide for their community service, sorority members have worked at BayFest for the past 20 years. They've held yard sales, sold tickets for and worked at the Belk Charity sales.
And though McKemie Place is one of their most rewarding activities, they do not limit their community service to that one project. They volunteer at Festival of Flowers and at an Azalea Trail Run water station. They have a Christmas party for 10 women in a nursing home who have no families to celebrate with; they take the residents gifts such as throws and slippers. And, Sawyer said, they help with individual needs when they can.
Officers in Laureate Upsilon are Carlyn Gambel, president, MinnieVogtner, vice president; Brenda Howard, recording secretary; Lillian Harrell, corresponding secretary and Clyde Harrell, treasurer. They meet on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month. For more information, call Sawyer at 661-2321.