More than a half century ago, members of the Pittsburgh South Hills Chapter of the Delta Gamma fraternity began selling pecans to raise money for the visually impaired.
Why pecans were selected for a fundraiser is lost to time. But Mary Kay Mitchell, publicity chairwoman, said some members surmise that at the time another group had success selling them, so the South Hills chapter chose them as well.
"Our pecans are top quality," she said. The pecans are shipped from the Atwell Pecan Co. of Wrens, Ga. "They're fresh and look pretty, especially when baked in a pie."
Over the years, the chapter built up a large clientele. To remind them, members make calls and send out emails; Mrs. Mitchell even takes a basket of pecans to meetings, to her hair dresser and everywhere she goes this time of year. She keeps a case of pecans in the trunk of her car in case she finds someone who wants to buy them.
"We're an active chapter and most of our 40 members either buy or sell pecans or both," she said. "Last year we also began selling milk chocolate-covered pecans, and now they are taking off. Both come in nice packages that can be used as gifts, and we keep selling them till we run out."
Last year, the South Hills chapter donated about $3,000, to the Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh, the School for Blind Children and Service for Sight: Joining Forces, which aids visually impaired veterans.
Founded in 1873 in Oxford Miss., Delta Gamma is one of the oldest and largest women's fraternities in the United States and Canada. The fraternity began its mission to help the visually impaired in 1937, when member Ruth Billow, blinded in a childhood accident, made an impassioned plea at a Delta Gamma convention to make a difference in the lives of those with limited or no sight.
There are 145 collegiate chapters and 219 alumnae chapters internationally and all help the visually impaired in some way by raising guide dogs, volunteering members' time at schools for the blind and conduction vision screenings for preschool children. A second Pittsburgh chapter based in the North Hills also conducts a pecan sale.
"I use the pecans I buy to bake pecan pies," Mrs. Mitchell said. "I also coat them with cinnamon sugar and give them away as gifts and keep some in my freezer year-round to use in different recipes, put on ice cream and eat right out of the bag."
To order, call 412-278-2950.
For more on the organization, visit www.deltagamma.org.
Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.