Sitting in her Ashburton home, 90-year-old Margaret Turner took a trip down “Memory Lane” as she reflected back on how she would become a member of a group of young, female African-American educators who wanted to make a difference in their community.
“We had just come out of college,” said Turner who graduated from what was then known as Coppin Teachers College, now Coppin State University. “The Continentals were just beginning, and we knew one of the founders. She asked if we wanted to join this club. She told us they were looking for people who might be interested. At the time, me and the girls were teachers in our first year.”
She added, “We went to the first Continentals interest meeting, and the objectives were discussed. When we heard it was an organization that worked with children, me and the girls – Doris Cole and Margaret Mason were interested. We became the three new members of that group.”
The co-founders of the Baltimore Chapter of Continental Societies, Inc. were Helen Gattis, Helen Quarles, Delores Young and Lillie Branch. Turner, Cole, and Mason would be among the co-founders as one of the original sixteen charter members of the group. The others were: Jean Harris Asburn; Frances Branch; Frankie Hinchen; Susan Jones, Arnetta Lottier, Emily Peck, Doreva Stanley, Ethel Saunders, and Bernice Watson.
Turner who recently celebrated a birthday, was born on March 1,1929.
“All of the charter members have passed, I am the only one living,” said Turner who is a retired Baltimore City Public School teacher. “I am the oldest of the three. I have been in The Continentals for 65 years. It has been a pleasure because we always are trying to help the youth. Our mainline is the children.”
Continental Societies, Inc. embraces 43 chapters in 21 states in the Continental USA, District of Columbia and Bermuda and is continuing to grow.
Since its inception in 1955, the Baltimore Chapter of Continental Societies, Incorporated has planned and implemented many educational programs in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Harford County Public Schools through their Five-Point Programmatic Thrust: Health, Education, Employment, and Recreation (H.E.E.R.) where they provide recreation activities such as Yoga and Hula-Hoop for the students.
Through H.E.E.R. and plus Arts and Humanities programs, the women provide assistance to disadvantaged children and youth. Activities and projects include volunteering as “Book Buddies” at local schools where they read to children; and Continentals serve as volunteers on the “Colgate Van”. The Colgate Van is a National initiative which provides youngsters with the opportunity to be screened by a dentist and hygienist to expose them to the importance of dental care and healthy dental hygiene. The van has cartoon charters, “Mr. Rabbit”, music for children and free dental kits are distributed. The mobile dental screening van targets inner city urban neighborhoods.
The president of the Baltimore Chapter is Yvonne Woods-Howard. The Chapter provides financial support to several organizations which include the Boys’ Choir of Powhattan, Health and Wellness HIV Program to assist children and their families with HIV/AIDS, and St. James Academy which supports inner-city boys at the St. James Basketball Academy.
All programs and projects are financed by member donations, annual benefits, grants and corporate donations. Nationally, Continental Societies, Inc. serves over a quarter of a million children and youth annually.
The members provide financial aid to local youth through its Baltimore Continental Scholarship Fund. Since 1955, over $130,000 has been provided to students. All funds for this program are raised through the Annual Christmas Gala, which is held every December.
An avid writer, Turner’s poetry graced the invitations for the Annual Charities Gala for more than a decade. Her daughter Robin Beamon “beamed” with pride as she looked over at her mother.
“Mom is a leader and she has executed many roles with The Continentals,” said Beamon. “They do so much to invest in the future of children. They have made them a priority.”
Members of the Baltimore Chapter have stood out as female leaders to other women and children for over 50 years. Baltimore Chapter members who have served on the National level are Doris Anderson Smith, Gloria Madeleine Campbell and the Late Dr. Susan Jones.
Gwendolyn A. Lindsay currently serves as National First Vice President of The Continentals. Ms. Lindsay was invited to join the organization by the late Zelma Cole Brown, a Baltimore County Public School Administrator, who taught dance in her private dance studio for nearly 40 years.
Continental Brown was a Past President of the Baltimore Chapter and her daughter, Lynda M. Brown has been a member of the Baltimore Chapter since 1992 and has served as Vice-President of the Chapter.
“What intrigued me to join was what the members did for underprivileged children in the community,” said Lindsay. “We are small, but we do a lot to reach and advocate for children. “We want children to be successful and make an impact in their communities.”
Mary Louise Brown, who has been a member of the group since 1998, is the Chapter Historian.
“I joined the organization with the idea of empowering children to achieve their dreams and aspirations through our projects,” said Brown. “The Continentals have been the perfect extension for me to give back to young people.”
Brown, who is a retired Baltimore City Principal added, “I also have great love and admiration for Charter Member Margaret Turner. She has such an infectious personality and is so genuine, very giving and helpful. What she did, and continues to do is write beautiful poetry that symbolizes what The Continentals are all about in terms of spiritual attitude and fortitude, giving to the community, and outreach to serve youth. We stand on the shoulders of Margaret Turner and the other co-founders who set the standard for us as Continental ladies.”
For more in formation about The Continentals, visit www.continentalsocietiesinc.org.