13 - Sisters in the City

Just like our collegiate chapters, each of Chi Omega’s alumnae chapters have their own traditions. There’s the Christmas Market in Dallas, the annual pecan sales in St. Louis, the Kaleidoscope Luncheon in Houston, and perhaps most notably, the monthly Book Club in New York City. Now, some may expect that, in a city like New York with all of its glitz and glamour, our alumnae chapter would have a tradition more flashy than that of a simple book club. But to anyone who has attended the renowned monthly gathering, it’s apparent the book club offers the one thing the rest of the city doesn’t guarantee – a place Sisters can take a deep breath and feel at home.

New York City Alumnae exploring their city

Held every month at Stephanie and Bob Olmsted’s Park Avenue townhouse, the Book Club has legions of devoted attendees – Chi Omegas from all walks of life looking for friends who share similar values, while bonding about careers, service opportunities, and even roommates.

New York City Alumnae in Grand Central Station

While there are countless stories of the connections made in the New York City Book Club, young alumna Heidi Ellsworth (Alpha | Washington) shared her own story of making Chi O connections at Book Club in the summer 2015 issue of The Eleusis.

New York City can be an intimidating place for the 250,000 people who flock here annually. With almost 8.5 million people, 800 languages, and 27,012 people per square mile, it’s a true melting pot that draws people from every corner of the country and globe. Add in subways, the highest cost of living in the country, and a common lifestyle that includes 12-hour work days followed by after work socials until 4 a.m., and it’s obviously not a city of the faint of heart (or wallet). Don’t even ask a 30-year old single woman about the dating scene. You’ll never hear the end of it. Despite all that, you’ll often hear Manhattanites say it’s a city of culture and energy.

Enter the NYC Chi Omega Alumnae group. We’re 160 members strong, average five-plus events a month, and include women from more than 50 chapters, despite not having an undergraduate chapter in the area. One of the best attended and most lauded events is Book Club, hosted monthly in the home of Stephanie Ligon Olmsted, Chi Epsilon/U of Evansville, and her husband, Bob. Book Club generally draws a crowd of 30-40 Sisters and includes recent graduates to Sisters 80 years young!

For most members, Book Club is the only time we spend an evening in an apartment that is larger than 1,000 square feet. For some it’s the only time we eat food prepared in a real kitchen rather than a restaurant or grocery store. And for all it’s a time to relax in a gorgeous home and have lively discussions on some of the most popular books of the year.

I had an experience very similar to many new New Yorkers. I’m a transplant, born, raised, and educated in Seattle. So when a friend suggested we move to NYC, I was both excited and apprehensive, for although I worked in corporate retail, I never had the ambition to live the “Rachel-working-at-Bloomingdale’s” lifestyle. Three weeks and three-thousand miles later I arrived in NYC and moved into an apartment I’d never seen. I had no job and only knew four people. I found the NYC alumnae right away, became a member, and a year later became social chair. I literally cannot imagine how different my experience in New York would be without my Sisters. Book Club, Brunch Club, after work socials, visits to museums, workshops, Soul Cycle classes, financial seminars, you name it. The women I have met have filled every gap in my social scene and friendship need. I was never more thankful to be a member of Chi Omega than when I moved to NYC, and I have no apprehension moving anywhere else in the country knowing that I can find a network anywhere. But really, nowhere else could beat our Book Club, so I’m not going anywhere anytime soon!

At Convention 2018, Stephanie Ligon Olmsted (Chi Epsilon | Evansville), received The President’s Award for her distinguished service to Chi Omega on the local and national levels, including hosting this monthly event. Watch the video below to see Stephanie’s advice to Sisters moving to the City, and how Book Club helps with the transition.