Having tea, fun and doing some daily good
By Mary Helen Darah
The Daughters of the British Empire (DBE), a national nonprofit philanthropic organization founded in 1909, has been instrumental in providing a taste of home for its members. The group is comprised of women living in the USA whose parents or ancestors are from Britain or the British Commonwealth. “We are a diverse group with different backgrounds,” stated member Joyce Dutton. “Yet we share the commonality of being British.” The local Sir James M. Barrie Chapter of the DBE was established in 1947. Their national motto is, “Not ourselves but the cause,” and their local motto is, “Our prayer; some daily good to do.” Although focused on others, these ladies of the British Empire manage to have some laughs, share stories and of course bond over tea time.
Mix, Mingle and Meaning
“We meet once a month January through June,” said member Joyce Dutton. “We also try to have some type of function between July and August such as a pub party. Our fundraisers are open to the public, and we enjoy attending other organization’s charitable events. PJ Schaefer, originally from London and a member since 1961, believes the organization is far more than just a social club. “I have been regent several times, a national Midwest organizer and on the British Home Board in Chicago. I used to fly into Chicago once a month for meetings. I was very, very involved. Locally, I did ‘Christmas around The World’ at the Toledo Zoo through the International Institute. It was a super way of meeting people,” she recalled. “This organization has been my family. It is my home away from home. I had my husband and two daughters here in the U.S., but reaching out and having a cup of tea and connecting to home has meant the world to me. In all honesty, it took 16 years to accept that I was here.”
Rose Nagle has been a member of the DBE for close to 10 years. She moved to Toledo in 2000 from California, where she had a shop of British items. “I attended a few DBE events and liked the atmosphere. I had a British store for 20 years and I missed all my friends when I moved,” she stated. “I created the website for our local organization, and I get my hands into anything they ask for. I do all the flyers and the book clips and the membership books. If they need anything, they holler. The DBE is good for people coming over here for the first time. People expect you to jump in and be an American. It is a process to adjust.” Joyce Dutton, originally from Mughull, near Liverpool, values the friendships she has made through the organization. “In a word DBE has meant ‘friendship,’” she stated. “I have been here 36 years and I still get homesick. It is especially difficult during the holidays. DBE brings you home while over here.” She enjoys the teas and the pub parties and serves as recording secretary. “I also do the concerns and celebrations. I send birthday cards and sympathy cards to our members and occasionally make home visits,” she stated. “I have been doing that for 20 years.”
Continuing the legacy
“People hear about us through word-of-mouth, and we are always encouraging people of British descent to join,” said PJ Schaefer. “We are a 501 (c) 3 and support organizations such as the Beach House, Old News Boys, Victory Center, Baskets of Care and Toledo Hospital NICU. We also go into schools to share our culture.” Many of our state chapters are very large and very active. Ours is a smaller and older chapter in regards to age; however, our youngest member is 14 years old. The hardest part of our chapter is that the younger generation is not getting involved. I would like to see it grow with the addition of younger members and let them take over and keep it going.” Rose Nagle agreed. “We want our heritage to be passed on,” she stated. “There are a lot of British people in the area, but they don’t want to commit to being in a club. However, we are different. Once you’re in, you won’t be over-committed with numerous expectations. Instead it’s like a family—a home away from home.”