Tri Kappa celebrates 75 years
Open house is Monday at REMC Center

Mary Mattingly

It’s not many organizations that continue with the same activities started 75 years ago. But, apparently, when Tri Kappa initiates a project, they make it work. And, it does, mainly because of the commitment behind the members. Consider that the Delta Rho chapter of Tri Kappa sponsored a float in the Versailles Pumpkin Show when they initially formed, and they haven’t missed doing so for 75 years. They sold pecans as a fundraiser just a few years after forming, and yes, they still are into pecans!

Kappa Kappa Kappa (Tri Kappa) is a statewide service organization formed in 1901, after a group of seven college girls had the idea to do good for others. The state association was then petitioned in 1938 for the Versailles-Osgood Delta Rho Chapter, the 104th one in the state, initiated on April 22, 1939. The Versailles-Osgood chapter was the first two-town chapter in the state, and with 47 active members today, it is still going strong. They also have two sustaining members and four college members. “These are people who care about their communities and are willing to do what it takes to make their communities better. And, they have big hearts!” says Mary Ann Wise-Castner, the chapter historian. A busy woman herself, she joined in the ‘80s. “They don’t call me historian for nothing,” she jokes. Kidding aside, she commented, “I joined because it could magnify what I could do as an individual.” Their associate chapter has 13 members.

Today, the statewide organization has 146 chapters and 114 associate chapters with 9000 active members. The philanthropic sorority’s goals began as three-fold and remain virtually the same with a little tweaking. “They were called to bring women into close, unselfish relationship for the promotion of charity, culture and education. We changed culture to fine arts, charity to philanthropy and education remained,” Wise-Castner said.

Hope Austin and Dorothy Craig

The late Hope Austin and Dorothy Craig became Tri Kappa honorary members 25 years ago. Craig will be at the open house Monday.

On April 14, the local organization invites the public to celebrate their 75 years of service. There will be an open house at the REMC Training Center in Osgood from 6-8 p.m. Dorothy Craig, sister to one of the founding members Jean Thompson Martin, will be there. Dorothy will also be celebrating her 95th birthday, and she is probably the oldest active member in the state. They’ll have display boards of their 75 years of work, and some members will dress in period clothing and speak of that era. The 75th anniversary theme plays on current president Janice Wittich’s fondness for hands-on projects, and is thus named “Lending a Helping Hand.”

Tri Kappa is associated with many good works around the county. Wise-Castner and Wittich mention some of their ongoing state and local charity projects. There are senior citizen birthday recognitions, local food pantry support, and Margaret Mary Health Pediatrics, to name a few. Focusing on the art aspect of their mission is the annual pumpkin show art contest, and they have also borrowed at one time the Tri Kappa Indiana artist painting collection to display at both Osgood and Versailles libraries. It’s actually on permanent loan to Rose-Hulman Institute. Hitting on the education goal, Tri Kappa provides numerous scholarships, including ones named after local founders Mae Konkle and Georgia Lee Mulford. Also, the top JCD and SR students are awarded scholarships from Tri Kappa. There are math, fine art and journalism scholarships as well that they provide. Plus, there are another 15 to 20 statewide scholarships available. On a state level, Tri Kappa makes dolls for young patients at Riley’s Hospital, along with blankets and pillow puppies. They also support Hoosier Girls State, a program for students to learn about government. Wittich is particularly fond of the sponsorship of the week-long camp for special needs children.

Funding these activities comes from the hard work of members and the community support. One of their big fundraisers is the annual Holiday Bazaar at South Ripley Elementary School in November. Members make cookies and candies, set up tables, organize children activities, and do much of the behind- the- scene work for the event. Members also spend a day every year making cheese balls, covered in pecans of course, to sell. “You do not have to be the big cheese to be on the committee!” Wise-Castner joked.
The service sorority operates with about $13,000 annually, most which ends up back in the community in one way or another. “It’s not what we do, but the body of work we’ve done in the two communities,” Wise-Castner said proudly. “Some of the best things we’ve done quietly.”

One year they handed out chocolate kisses to the motorists at the intersection just to thank the Versailles-Osgood towns for support. In February, during Tri Kappa Week, they decorate local restaurant tables with white carnations and pink paper hearts to thank the public for ongoing support of their charitable projects.

Conducting these charitable projects brings the women, who range in age from their 20s to their 90s, closer as a group. “We all learn from each other,” Wittich said. Wise-Castner added,” Having combined Versailles and Osgood has transcended some long-time basketball rivalries! But really, I would not have known some of these women in Osgood had it not been for Tri Kappa. And, that’s why it’s called sorority. It’s close relationships and it expands our personal circle.”

The organization meets monthly, with some of the subcommittees more often if need be. Wittich said service is foremost, but the charity work results in some lasting relationships. “We do have fun together. We may go to a concert and ask guests, maybe to a play, or to make glass jewelry,” she commented. Soon, they’ll enjoy an outing for a spa day at the Southeastern Career Center, decorating flip-flops, enjoying the culinary food made by the students, and more. Wise-Castner recalled a theme back in the ‘80s which sums up that the group enjoys each other as they help others: “Tri Kappa: Just for the fun of it!”

The upcoming open house will be one of their “fun things.” But, it will also bring the past with the present, reminding members, associates, inactive and honorary members where they have come from, with an eye to where they are going in the future. Representing the local chapter, Wittich and Wise-Castner invite the public to come and celebrate 75 years of lending a helping hand!



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