The History of the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Alumnae Club
The year 1929 was filled with excitement and new beginnings. Penicillin was discovered and Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. Closer to home in Dearborn, Michigan, construction had begun on Henry Ford's Greenfield Village. In April of that year, 11 Pi Phi's decided to officially charter an alumnae club. The charter members were Genevieve Clark Angstman, Adrienne Atkinson Beaudette, Hazel Storz Eaton, Jean Royce Groves, Marjorie Beebe Hadley, Florence Maston King, Martina Marsh McKinney, Dorothy Chittendon Owens, Flora Boyle Quinn, Bess Kempf Ranney and Betty Jackson Shaffner.
Four of the 11 charter members had already been meeting in a Birmingham home as early as 1924. Most of the early members had large homes with the latest modern conveniences, such as oil furnaces and electric refrigerators. Few held jobs outside the home and nearly everyone had live-in help. Many wondered if the ritual should be read at the opening and closing of the meetings. "If they did [read it aloud], they had to whisper so the maid wouldn't hear," said one member.
Pi Phi meetings typically started with a luncheon. Usually there was no programming except those that supported the national interests of Pi Phi. The one special event each year was the Village Mart at the Community House that included the sale of handwoven items from the Settlement School.
In 1945, membership grew to 45 members and several daughters of the charter members became active in the club. In the late 1940s and 1950s, the club began to send a delegate to convention. Later in the 1970s, the club membership grew to 150 Pi Phis.
In the 1950s, the club was involved in Pi Phi's work at Children's Village, an organiation dedicated to providing fun for children who were wards of the state. Members also sell crafts made at the Settlement School, donate to the National Kidney Foundation and are involved in the Champions Are Readers® (CAR) program. Through CAR, the club has adopted a third-grade classroom in Southfield, Michigian; the club members tutor the children in that classroom and donate books.
The club has enjoyed being part of the Beanie Baby Hugs Project, for which the club’s members knit 12-inch blankets and then use them to wrap a Beanie Baby. The Optimist Club gives these Beanie Babies to young cancer patients in the hospital. Angel Bears is another philanthropic cause of the club; members have supported this cause for almost 20 years, along with the former North Woodward Alumnae Club.
The Book Buddies Program at Birney Middle School matches a middle school student with a university student at University of Michigan. They correspond with each other and after several months, the middle school student visits his or her buddy at the University of Michigan. In turn the middle school students demonstrate reading and writing exercises to "teach" the college students. Club members have volunteered in the middle school classrooms and provide financial support to this endeavor.
Literacy Angels helps the children at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit. This group received 500 brand-new books thanks to a grant from Pi Beta Phi Foundation. The Bloomfield Hills, Michigan Alumnae Club presented the books to the Children’s Hospital Foundation at their Dr. Seuss® Event on March 4, 2016. Tony Werner, the Children’s Health Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer, said upon receiving the books: “When children are receiving medical care they face many challenges and can feel as if they have very little control over what goes on around them. Books are often used as a distraction mechanism to help alleviate some of the anxiety and stress children may be experiencing, making donations like this extremely important.” The Literacy Angels of Pi Beta Phi, a new interest group created in 2015, volunteered alongside the Reach Out and Read coordinator, Sue Scott, to distribute books and read to children visiting the hospital that day. About 100 books were passed out at the Dr. Seuss event, and the remaining books were placed in waiting rooms, clinics and lobbies throughout the hospital where children are encouraged to take a book with them when they leave.
Awards and Club Recognition
- Club of Excellence (2009)
- Club of Superior Performance (2016, 2015, 2014, 2010, 2008)
- Club of Traditional Performance (2013, 2011)
- Excellence in Communication (2016, 2015, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2008, 2003, 2002, 2001)
Young Alumna Achievement Award
- Michelle Woodhouse (2016)
- Margaret Strum Allesse, community philanthropist