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Sunday, July 27, 2008
Red-Hatters kick up heels for 10 years
July 27, 2008
By Denise M. Baran-Unland
Special to the Herald News

The front page color photograph of a group of women all dressed in red hats and purple dresses caught Dale Smith's eye.
As Smith read the accompanying Herald News article, she learned that these women were all members of a group known as the Red Hat Society. What perfect fit for the former group of AT&T employees, now known as the Scarlet O'Hatters.
Pink hats?
"We had been friends for years, but now we were all retired," said Smith, of Joliet.
"I thought that since we no longer worked together, this would keep us together as a group. That was about five years ago, and it's been pretty much of a social club for us. We meet at the same time each month so everyone can plan for that time. We have lunch at a restaurant and maybe to go shopping or go to antique stores."

Although the organization itself is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the Red Hat Society has proudly kept intact its "disorganization" or lack of rules and regulations that pervade many other organizations. While individual chapters may participate in organized charities or planned events, the mission of the Red Hat Society is to simply have fun.
"I've been involved in 20 different things over the yeas, but I wanted to join this one because you didn't have to do any paperwork or be an officer," said Penny Podlenski, of Joliet, member of the GG's or the Gorgeous Gallivanters.

Who are they?According to the Red Hat Society, half of the women who belong to the society are "baby boomers," women who influence 80 percent of the $2.1 trillion that this group spends as a whole on consumer goods and consumers. These are not women who are heading for the rocking chair anytime soon.
"When I turned 50, I felt that there was still such a vibrant life ahead of me," said Sue Ellen Cooper, founder and president of the Red Hat Society. "I never would have thought that by giving one friend a festive red hat to celebrate her 50th birthday would catch fire the way that it did. But clearly this gesture symbolized something to older women, that the second phase of life is ripe with potential for living life to its absolute fullest."

Founded in 1998, the Red Hat Society has grown far beyond Cooper's original intent. The organization today has nearly 40,000 chapters in 25 countries and strives to make real differences in women's lives.
Since 2004, Go Red for Women (www.GoRedForWomen.org) has encouraged women to take seriously their risk for heart disease. As a 10th birthday present to itself, the Red Hat Society has collaborated with the American Heart Association to raise awareness of heart disease among women through its "Hatters Have Heart" campaign, said CEO Debra Granich.

Nevertheless, such activities do not diminish the society's basic foundation of fellowship.

"While there are so many things our members enjoy, from discounts to rich experiences, what they seem to value most are the lasting connections they make," Granich said. "On our 10th birthday, I am proud that together we have led one of the revolutionary movements of our time, one dedicated to showing the world the joy of what it means to be a woman approaching 50 and beyond."

Even younger women can join in the fun.

The Pink Hatters, is for women younger than 50.
"They belong to the same group, but wear pink hats and lavender clothes," said Lois Leonard, of Joliet. "We have only one Pink Hatter in our group who happens to be my daughter-in-law."
Leonard and a friend enjoyed going to the movies and bingo events together, but wanted to connect with more women their age. Vaguely aware of the Red Hat Society's existence, Leonard went online to learn more about them.

Her group, The Red Hot Hooters, spun off from a former Joliet group, Those Darling Red Hat Divas.
"We meet once a month, usually at my place because it's hard to conduct meetings in a restaurant and we can be a little bit louder and more boisterous in our own space," Leonard said. "More times than not we do potlucks or a bring-your-own-breakfast and stop and bring McDonald's or some kind of rolls. Many of my ladies are still working so it's hard for them to meet more often than that."
Although Leonard's group is also mainly a social group, the 18 members will often participate in official Red Hat events, such as teas and weekend-long trips. "It's amazing the amount of people that come out for them," Leonard said.
Such events also attract vendors, but that's part of the fun, said Podlenski. "They sell anything you can think of for Red Hatters: boas, purses, hats, scarves, dresses, all kinds of stuff. Now that we're over 50, many things aren't as important to us as they were when we were 40.
"We're just thankful to God that we get through the day and we might as well be silly and happy. I think that's the attitude that most Red Hatters have."
http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/bolingbrooksun/lifestyles/1075219,4_5_JO27_REDHATS_S1.article


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