by Kaci Schneidawind
There is a group that organizes events, takes trips and raises money for Bethany Lutheran College that many are unaware of. This group is the Women’s Auxiliary.
The Women’s Auxiliary of Bethany is essentially an organization of women that have interest in and support the college in a number of ways, and began as a “Paint and Varnish Club” nearly 100 years ago in the 1920’s.
“[The Auxiliary] was founded in the very early years of ELS ownership when the sole building was Old Main and many rooms and areas were virtually unfinished due to lack of funds,” secretary of the Mankato chapter, Lois Jaeger said.
“It was first called the ‘Paint and Varnish Club’ because that’s precisely what they did – painted and varnished unfinished rooms. As those tasks were completed in the coming years, they turned their attention to other ways to support the college,” said Jaeger.
There are many individual chapters of the Women’s Auxiliary across the country. They hold meetings throughout the year to stay informed of current events and raise funds used to support projects “outside” of the college’s budget expenses, but which directly benefit Bethany students.
“These meetings and fundraisers vary from chapter to chapter,” Jaeger said. “There is a National Auxiliary Day held on campus each September when members hold their annual business meeting, decide on expenditures for the year, and have the opportunity first-hand to see what is happening currently on campus.”
As for the Mankato chapter specifically, this group meets four times a year in September October, February and April. At the first three meetings, a speaker is brought in to inform of a certain aspect of what is happening at Bethany, and the April meeting consists of hosting the annual Graduation Tea for graduating Bethany woman students.
Between meetings, the Auxiliary conducts fundraisers for the year which are submitted to the national organization.
This year, Mankato meetings have had speakers including: Susan Harstad on the schedule of Fine Arts events for the year; Tim Tollefsen on how “new music” is created and Sara Traylor on the new nursing program.
The current president of the Mankato branch of the Women’s Auxiliary is Mary Born. She has served two three-year terms and has been a member of the Auxiliary since her husband came to Bethany in 1997 to start the Education major.
“As both of our sons attended Bethany, I felt that I should be supporting the college by being an active member of the Auxiliary,” said Born.
Born facilitates the fundraising events done at the local level and supervises the “tea” sponsored by the Auxiliary for the women that come to their Synod convention in June.
“Our group here in Mankato averages about 12 and they all work hard to promote Bethany and provide the many little extra [things] the Auxiliary supplies the college,” Born said.
Dr. Ashley Covell, an assistant professor of mathematics at Bethany, has been a member of the Auxiliary since she began teaching at the college about three years ago. She joined the group when she went to them to speak about herself as a new hire, and has grown to appreciate the camaraderie and guidance from those within the organization.
“It’s a fellowship,” Covell said of the Auxiliary. “I enjoy getting to know other ladies who are a part of it.”
She added, “I think it was Paul to Timothy who said ‘the older women instruct the younger women.’ I feel like I’m in that role now as one of the younger women learning from the older women.”
Covell also likes being brought together with and meeting other women part of the national organization who hail from states other than Minnesota. “It’s cool to know there’s people in other places with the same mission,” Covell said.
Just as the women in individual chapters are passionate about their own mission, those in the Mankato chapter are devoted to theirs: working to help Bethany grow and thrive.
“Along with all the other women in the other [branches] who belong to the organization, I have a deep love for Bethany and enjoy the opportunity to be even a small part in her support and in carrying on the tradition begun by those ambitious few women in the 1920’s,” said Jaeger.
Something unique is one does not have to be a graduate; any women of any age are welcome to attend and join the Auxiliary.
The work these women do to support and strengthen Bethany at the local and national levels has its roots in the trailblazing women who saw the inception of the Women’s Auxiliary nearly a century ago.
Jaeger says the group works today to continue with the efforts of those women who “did what they could to assist the college students of their day,” Jaeger said.
Bethany is thankful for the near hundred years of contributions, and looking forward to more service of the Auxiliary and its dedicated members.