Betsy Martin, Debbie Wagner, Christina Fisanick, Brenda Bachman, Eleanor White, Lisa Armstrong and Crystal Baranowski prepare a meal at St. Luke’s Community Center.

Alpha Delta Kappa Iota: Service, Scholarship and Sisterhood

Happy birthday, Alpha Delta Kappa Iota Chapter — 60 looks great on you!

On Oct. 3, the Iota Chapter of the international honor organization, ADK, turned 60 years old, and three members of the local chapter were eager to offer information about the service and education-driven organization. Crystal Baranowski, a retired Ohio County school teacher; Debbie Wagner, a retired art teacher for Ohio County Schools; and Dr. Christina Fisanick, associate professor of English at California University of Pennsylvania, met in Wheeling to share their stories, experiences and knowledge of the group.

The international organization of ADK was founded in 1947 and is open to women educators who strive for educational excellence, community service and an understanding of the world around them. The altruistic organization has grown from the vision of founder Agnes Shipman Robertson to include more than 30,000 women educators around the globe.

“If she were here today to see what has evolved … ,” mused Baranowski, former ADK state president and fraternal education chair for the Iota Chapter. “Agnes saw a need for women educators to interact with each other and have an outlet to discuss ideas.” And Alpha Delta Kappa was born.

Iota members, from left, Nicole Naegele and Brenda Bachman, with 2016-18 West Virginia State Alpha Delta Kappa president Ginger Greene.

Baranowski went on to tell the story of how the founding mother of the organization drummed up membership. “She was so committed to finding members throughout the state of Missouri, she and her husband got in the car and drove state to state spreading the word.”

In the late 1940s, that wasn’t an easy feat as the concept of major interstate travel was still in its infancy.

“When you think about her drive and dedication, it’s really amazing,” said Fisanick, Iota Chapter president.

And drum up membership Agnes did. The organization went from four founding members to chapters in every state of the U.S., Australia, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Canada and Mexico. Locally, the Iota Chapter serves the Wheeling area. West Virginia has 33 total chapters and serves the southwest region.

The Iota Chapter began with 12 members and was inducted into the organization during a ceremony at the McLure Hotel’s Board of Trade room. At the time, in 1958, dues were $2 a year for members.

“That year, members were asked to donate an additional $2,” noted Baranowski, as $24 dollars was not enough to fund chapter service projects.

A driving belief of ADK is to serve charitable projects. Over its 60 years, the Iota Chapter has served the community in numerous capacities, most recently at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Wheeling Island and at the YWCA at the Women’s Boutique.

Packing weekend food bags for Madison Elementary School students are, from left, Eleanor White, Linda Kerr, Debbie Wagner, Mary Beth Adams, Lisa Armstrong, Betsy Martin, Crystal Baranowski, Pattie Dorfner and Sue Cain.

“Once a year we prepare and serve a lasagna dinner at the church,” explained Fisanick. “We pack food baskets at the House of the Carpenter and have helped with Boatsie’s Boxes,” added Debbie Wagner, immediate past president and membership chair of the local chapter.

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ADK also is involved with Camp Kno Koma, a non-profit summer camp for children who are insulin dependent. Each West Virginia chapter sponsors a camper who gets a summer camping experience they wouldn’t normally be able to have. Internationally, the membership contributes to the Alzheimer’s Association and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Another key part of ADK’s mission is to support scholarships for members and non-members. The international organization supports approximately 15 scholarships and grants ranging from classroom grants, innovation grants, professional development, fine arts, ADK future educator and international teacher education. Locally, the Iota Chapter has contributed and provided grants, scholarships and funds to the Augusta Levy Learning Center, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, as well as sponsored international students studying in the education field.

“Part of our mission is world understanding with an emphasis on education,” Fisanick said, “and part of what we do is outreach.”

That outreach benefits children and educators around the world. With a focus on furthering education and working with needy educational areas globally, the international membership of ADK has built schools in Vietnam, Peru and Haiti, donated books and sponsored a bookmobile on Indian reservations, and built classrooms in Haitian orphanages.

ADK members benefit, too, from this organization. “Truly, this is a sisterhood and not just people who have common interests,” said Fisanick.

Members can apply for organization-funded grants for their classrooms, continue their own educations and spend time with other women educators.

Recently, the Iota Chapter toured the Wheeling Room at the Ohio County Public Library. “The hope was to showcase the room and let teachers know they could incorporate some of this educational material into their classrooms,” Fisanick commented. Before the devastating fire that destroyed Wheeling’s Augusta Levy Learning Center, the Iota Chapter toured the facility. In the future, the members will visit the Ohio County Public Library’s archives as well as host a grant writing workshop and a “paint and sip.”

“We like to have fun while doing good,” Fisanick said, smiling.

In recognition of the contributions the Iota Chapter of ADK has made to the Wheeling charitable organizations and educators, at the Oct. 16 Wheeling City Council meeting, Mayor Glenn Elliott will issue a proclamation declaring October 2018 as Alpha Delta Kappa Iota month.

The Iota Chapter of ADK will hold an Open House/Birthday Party at 6 p.m. today, Wednesday, Oct. 10, at Wheeling Country Day School. Women educators who have at least two years of experience and are under contract in an educational facility are eligible to apply for membership.

For additional information about the Iota Chapter, visit the sorority’s Facebook page.

(Photos provided by Dr. Christina Fisanick)

Chana Baker is a freelance writer and instructor of literacy, composition and literature at West Virginia Northern Community College. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications, specializing in journalism, and a master’s degree in English and creative writing.