Every month of the year, a group can be found gathered at the Masonic Lodge in downtown Sumner.
The group is made up of members from Order of the Eastern Star (OES), a Masonic group that is open to both men and women. Members must be related in some way to a Masonic fraternity member.
Peggy Mills is the current Worthy Grand Matron of OES in Washington state and acts as a sort of president of the group, visiting different OES chapters across the state.
“Our purpose is a social organization designed to promote friendship and harmony among its members, to practice charity, to elevate character, to keep the moral law as a rule and guide of conduct and to assist the Masonic Fraternity in all its good works,” she said.
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Our purpose is a social organization designed to promote friendship and harmony among its members, to practice charity, to elevate character, to keep the moral law as a rule and guide of conduct and to assist the Masonic Fraternity in all its good works.
There are 81 OES chapters across the state, but Mills often attends the Guiding Star chapter in Sumner.
“Guiding Star is one of the larger, more active chapters,” said Mills, 62. “I am the fourth generation of my family to belong to the Guiding Star chapter. My daughter is the fifth generation.”
Mills’ family has a long history in Sumner. Her great-grandfather grew up in Sumner and owned a farm. Mills’ great-grandparents were one of the original charter members for the Guiding Star chapter.
“I was raised in a Masonic Family so the fraternity has always been a part of my life,” Mills said. “I belonged to the International Order of Rainbow for Girls, which is one of the three youth groups.”
In 1972, when Mills was 18, she joined the OES and stayed there for decades, slowly holding more and more positions until she became Worthy Grand Matron this year. As Worthy Grand Matron, Mills visits other chapters across the state, visiting members. And as someone who enjoys meeting new people, Mills said she enjoys the social aspect of her travels.
“I love the members. I love the support I get from them,” she said.
For many members of OES, their monthly meetings are a place to go to find support or comfort. Members share if they’re going through a rough time, or they share when something exciting is happening in their lives.
“(OES) is where my friends are,” Mills said. “It’s another family.”
(OES) is where my friends are. It’s another family.
In a time where many are busy with work, their children or other activities, it can be hard to get younger people involved with OES, said Mills. But the group continues to help benefit those going through school with their scholarships.
Every year, OES give out scholarships to those in its youth groups, including a nursing education scholarship and a religious education scholarship.
“We give away thousands of dollars in scholarships every year,” Mills said.
OES members raise the money through coffee stops, dinners, dances and other social events. As the Worthy Grand Matron, Mills can choose a cause of her choice to support with some of the funds. This year, she chose Alzheimer’s disease research. Two years ago, Mills’ own mother passed away from the disease.
Mills, who currently lives in Tacoma, worked as a nurse for 30 years and sees a theme in what she chooses to do in her life. That theme is helping others.
“I like how through Eastern Star I’m able to support charities that I couldn’t (support) on my own,” Mills said. “I love to help people.”
Mills’ time as Worthy Grand Matron is up in June, but she said she’s learned a lot in the past year.
“I think I’ve grown,” Mills said, adding that she’s now more confidence being in larger groups and has made many friends.
“We help strengthen our members. We support and encourage each other,” Mills said. “We’re trying to make every one of us a better person.”