Salida’s Alpha Omicron Chapter 770 of Epsilon Sigma Alpha sorority and the Colorado State Chapter are celebrating their 75th anniversary in May.
Locally, members will celebrate May 19 at the installation/awards banquet, and the state convention will be held May 22 via Zoom. Salida member Barbara Kurtz is also celebrating her 75th year of membership in the chapter, which was founded in May 1947.
Barbara Ritchie Kurtz was a Salida High School senior at that time and remembers being called to the superintendent’s office and wondering what she had done. As it turned out, Evelyn Umbreck was there regarding starting a group for business and professional women in Salida and she wanted Kurtz to join.
“I was too busy with graduation plans at the time,” Kurtz said, “but I recommended Jane Ferraro and Bette Cable. They became charter members, and I joined during the first rush of that chapter in October of 1947.”
Kurtz has remained active in the sorority ever since.
“What began as a business and professional women’s group is now mostly a philanthropic group,” said Diana Wood, publicity chairman.
“In the beginning the chapters had to have a sponsor. The first sponsor was Kathrn Long, a friend of Jane Ferraro. Then Florence Taliaferro and Lena Degrazio were sponsors for two years. Francis Rhodes Bradford was sponsor for the next 34 years. She took her job very seriously. She made sure rules were followed and that we were all ladies above reproach. She monitored our actions and dress code and would talk to us if we needed it. I heard that she talked to a couple of ladies about their dress code at meetings. Her husband, Brad, called us his girls, and they always hosted our summer picnic at their cabin at North Fork. They were wonderful, outstanding people.”
At one time there were 41 members in the chapter. Today there are 16.
ESA chapters are threefold: philanthropic, educational and social. Some of the early projects were rummage sales and bake sales. One year the chapter held a puppet show. In more recent years members have assisted at the 9Health Fair, held a salad luncheon for 37 years and raffled a Christmas tree decorated with 100 dollar bills.
“Our major project now is supporting St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital,” Wood said. “We also give a $1,000 high school senior scholarship and at Christmas we give a donation to a needy family. We also donate to Easter Seals, Restorative Justice, Ark Valley Helping Hands and other local charities We’ve been graciously granted a space at Hodgepodge to sell our handmade items, and this keeps us busy and able to have a treasury since COVID-19 has prevented us from having the luncheon and raffle for the past two years.”