The story of the Delaware Eta chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa began with a invitational tea, matured with a rejection of bake sales and came of its own with a horse show competition.
And so, since 1976, these women educators have been helping the Mary Campbell Center. A lot.
Three women – Diane Brigham, Jeanne Ciecko and Terry Celano – have participated in all 44 years, with chapter president Sally Fraticelli a supporter for 37.
They offered this summary: “Through the generosity of the local community and the Eta sisters, more than $350,000 has been raised over the years” for the Brandywine Hundred complex, which, according to its website, provides “home and heart to children and adults with disabilities.”
Donations have gone to many things, including a pool lift, a Snoezelen multi-sensory room and mostly recently iPads and computers to enable virtual learning and “home” visits during the pandemic.
“We have grown together,” Celano said. “We have become friends with workers and residents. They have so much determination. They have disabilities, but they also have so many abilities. It’s all very rewarding. It’s a happy place.”
“It is one of the greatest groups of women,” Fraticelli said. “We started with the camaraderie of education, then there was friendship, and the crème de la crème was our altruistic project at the Mary Campbell Center.”
“I see myself as an individual that is a part of a collective group (Eta chapter) that has for 44 years created and sustained a very rewarding relationship with the residents of the center,” Brigham said, adding that she has stayed involved so long because she wants “to support a facility that allows the residents to live a lifestyle that embraces their ‘abilities’ and does not focus on their disabilities.”
“We come away with such a feeling of gratitude and gratefulness,” Ciecko said their activities. “And a blessing to my own life. I could talk forever about it.”
How their involvement evolved
The Eta chapter was born at a get-to-know-us tea at the Pilot School for another chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international organization of women educators whose mission emphasizes world understanding, excellence in education and altruism, Brigham recalled.
There were enough colleagues from the old Conrad School District there (and enough enthusiasm) – to form a new chapter. They batted around ideas and decided to focus on the just-opened center (there was also enough expertise with people with special needs).
Brigham’s parents lived nearby, and her sister, Marcia V. Raniere, was one of the founders. Celano’s uncle, Joseph J. Picciotti Jr, was another founder. And in an only-in-Delaware connection, Ciecko’s son years later married Picciotti’s granddaughter.
They wanted to do more than bake sales for good causes, and over the years, when asked to consider supporting other organizations, they have chosen to remain a stalwart for the Mary Campbell Center.
Their first fundraiser was a horse show in 1977 at the Doc Talley Farm on Route 202, with residents watching and participating. It evolved into a dressage competition at Bellevue State Park,
In the late 1980s, they added a wine tasting and silent auction to the horse show to make for a gala weekend. As they aged out of handling the rigors of the horse show, they focused on the wine testing, with help from Bob Kreston of Kreston Wine & Spirits, Ciecko said.
The tasting, like so much else, went virtual this year as a “No Wine-ing” fundraiser.
The women said they have bonded with residents by going bowling, having cookouts, decorating residents’ doors and jointly creating ornaments for the holiday tree in the center’s All-Star Room.
The ornament making grew out of caroling, Ciecko said, when decided they wanted to do something more to spread the holiday spirit. This year, COVID-19 restrictions mean that members of the Eta chapter are making wreaths for the center’s residential neighborhoods.
“We’re giving back to a group of people who are less fortunate in some ways and are so grateful for what we do,” Fraticelli said.
For details on the chapter and Alpha Delta Kappa scholarships for future educators, contact her at email@example.com.