WAITSBURG – For 80 years, the International Order of Rainbow, Waitsburg Chapter #68, has been installing a new slate of officers every six months. On Sat., Feb. 4, community members were invited to attend as the newest slate of officers took their pledges.
The position of Worthy Advisor, similar to that of a club president, was assumed by Kendra Smith. The 17 year-old junior attends Wa-Hi, but joined Rainbow in Waitsburg as a sixth grader. She has remained a member of the Waitsburg chapter even after moving to Walla Walla in eighth grade.
During her acceptance speech, Smith became emotional as she recalled learning about Rainbow through a chance encounter with former Mother Advisor Karen Mohney, who passed away two years ago.
"I went into Blue Crystal (Screen Printing) to order P.E. clothes and Karen asked me if I knew about Rainbow. That turned into a 30 minute conversation that really caught my attention. Without her, I wouldn't be the person I am today," Smith said.
"I don't know where I would be without Rainbow. I wouldn't know most of the people that I know now and call family," she added.
In a conversation with The Times, Smith said that she used to be very shy, didn't want to go out, and spent years being bullied.
"Rainbow helped me get out of my comfort zone, taught me to speak in public, and helped me make friends – that's a big one!" Smith said.
Each Worthy Advisor-elect plans their own installation ceremony, and Smith chose "The Galaxy" as her theme.
"Rainbow is a lot like the galaxy because, like space, it is so big and there are so many possibilities and opportunities. Rainbow will take you to the moon and back and help you do anything you want to do," Smith said.
Smith said she has plenty of plans for the coming year. She hopes to hold at least two membership events to help get numbers back up. She wants to help out the Waitsburg Resource Center, and plans on doing fundraisers to help pay for Rainbow events like Dream Camp and Grand Assembly.
During Saturday's installation, Haylee Crow was installed as Faith and Katelynn Martin was installed as Confidential Observer. Associate Worthy Advisor Anna Nerf and Chaplain Stephenie Nerf were out of town and unable to attend the ceremony. Amy Bly attended as a pledge.
Several girls attended from Tri-Cities Chapter #66, and several district officials were in attendance.
Patricia Wilson has served as Mother Advisor for the Waitsburg chapter since Mohney's passing. The two grew up in Rainbow together, and Wilson had been helping Mohney as an unofficial assistant for several years.
"I joined Rainbow in January of 1975. It was very important to me. I walk into the lodge room and I feel at home every time. Even after I had been gone for 25 years, I walked in and it was as if I never left," Wilson said.
Wilson said membership is currently down, but she hopes to see a renewed interest in the chapter. She said many of the members have turned 20 and aged out.
"Rainbow is a good opportunity to learn service to others, to learn how to run a meeting, responsibility, leadership, communication skills and public speaking," Wilson said.
Wilson cited her niece, Holly Menino, as an example. Menino went through Rainbow to become Grand Worthy Advisor in 2001 and now has a career as a television reporter in Utah.
"A lot of that has to do with public speaking and gaining confidence in front of people, which she learned in Rainbow. Along with going to college!" Wilson said, laughing.
Smith is escorted in with her mother, Tanya.
Locally, the Rainbow girls help at or participate in community events such as the Pioneer Fall Festival, Turkey Bingo, and putting up a Christmas tree on Main Street. In September 2016, the jurisdiction raised approximately $17,000 for the Hilarity for Charity Foundation for Alzheimer's at a color run in Monroe, Wash., Wilson said.
During the installation ceremony, Rainbow Board Chair Nancy Otterson spoke about how important the assembly and the girls were to the board.
"We truly love the assembly and many of us have been Rainbow girls. Lois (Winchester) and I were Mother Advisor together and we were Mother Advisor to Patricia," Otterson said.
"Rainbow is a great way to make friends that become family. I would encourage any girls interested to check it out," Smith said.
Rainbow is open to girls ages 11-20. Those interested in joining Rainbow or learning more about the chapter can contact Patricia Wilson at (509) 240-0683 or email her at email@example.com.