There are mixed feelings among PLP Alums as to whether or not the Phi Lamb House is worth saving. The irony of the matter is that right now, without the house, the Sorority, at its present size, cannot raise enough revenue to pay the annual $8,000 liability insurance premium, which the college requires in order for the sorority to maintain its charter. Additionally, even if the house is eventually sold, back taxes need to be addressed with Oswego County before mid-June 2013 or the house will be taken for back taxes. To completely lose the financial equity in the house is not sensible.
Therefore, the PLPAA is inclined to encourage all sisters to consider donating to the Tax-Escrow Account that has been set up at Community Bank in Oswego. This contribution makes it possible to buy some time to make an informed decision about the House, build active PLP membership, and set up systems that will keep the organization financially solvent in the future.
Think about this…
If 200 sisters (and there are more than 650 Phi Lamb alumnae) each sent $100, the back taxes could be fully repaid and the house would get a much-needed furnace. If 200 of us each donated $200, we could pay taxes, buy a furnace, and contribute toward this year’s liability insurance premium while we help the actives build membership—a move toward their future solvency. We believe that the generosity of our sisterhood at this time is key to building a strong PLP that does not depend on future bail-outs.
As per the letter from the actives, we encourage you to send donations to:
Phi Lambda Phi Tax-Escrow Fund
C/O Community Bank
100 East First Street
Oswego, NY 13126
DO NOT send checks to the sorority house or to individual active sisters! A third party will directly pay the bills from the escrow account, and there is no chance of mismanagement of the funds.
Since the taxes will be paid down in intervals, donations can be made half now and half at the end of the summer, if that aligns better with your finances. We also encourage graduated sisters who still owe back rent and/or dues to send that to the escrow account now.
The letter that follows from PLPAA President Bonnie Love ’70 explains more of the details and attempts to answer the questions we have received from PLP alums about the solicitation letter from the active sisters.
May 10, 2013
Dear Phi Lamb Alumnae,
Many of you have contacted PLPAA to ask about the letter we all recently received from Paula Longway, PLP’s president. Many questions and concerns are swirling around, and I will try to address them as best and succinctly as I can.
To start with a bit of PLPAA history…
The Alumni Association was founded in 2004 at a point when the sorority was really struggling. Phi Lamb’s membership was low, and the house needed considerable work. Then to make things worse, in 2005 they had a pledge who overdrank during a pledging event and landed in the hospital. The college took away PLP’s charter and forbid them from rushing for three semesters; that almost did PLP in!! But a small group of sisters, and the newly organized PLPAA, worked hard to get the sorority reinstated and to start rebuilding the sisterhood. One big reason PLP did not die during this period is that the PLPAA, and in particular one very generous sister, provided thousands of dollars in support. Much of this money paid a liability insurance policy the college required the sisters to carry in order to become reinstated. This requirement is still in effect, and the current annual premium is now $8,000 annually!
And to add a quick PLPAA update…
After eight years of hard work, the board turned over last summer to a new PLPAA Board, representing alums from the 1960s through the 2000s. We are shifting focus away from only being involved with the active sisters to building a strong alumnae that supports preserving the traditions and history of the sorority, digitally archiving sorority artifacts, and providing various types of opportunities for sisters to remain in contact. We have gotten off to a strong start and hope to have 100+ paid members by the June Reunion. Several initiatives we think you’ll all like are underway, and ongoing updates will be shared frequently.
We continue to serve as advisors to the active sisters, who need, seek, and appreciate the guidance. Our ideal connection with them is to ensure that they have access to and understand the Phi Lamb traditions and that they become active members of PLPAA after graduation.
PLPAA’s current involvement with the active sorority…
As an organization, PLPAA no longer formally supports the active sisters financially. However, a number of circumstances have been brought to our attention regarding the actives. The reality is that without help soon from willing alumnae (whether you are members of PLPAA or not), Phi Lambda Phi Sorority and our House at 54 W. Fifth St., will be only memories.
For decades, the active sisters have under-charged for rent and consequently let the maintenance of the house decline. Fortunately, in the past they had enough sisters to pay dues and pay rent to live in the house. This allowed them to meet their awesome $8,000 insurance burden, but left little to build the organization. Additionally, in more recent years as membership declined, they have been unable to remain current with real estate taxes and other bills.
The membership of PLP next year will be 10, and they are struggling to find enough people to live in the house (the college does not allow freshmen and sophomores to live off-campus) and keep the rent even reasonable.
For the past 10 months, PLPAA has been very active as advisors — helping PLP take a real look at their finances and plan for the future. Our no-nonsense approach with the active sisters and our inability to give them money from the PLPAA coffers have resulted in their finally admitting they cannot effectively handle their own finances.
Here are the successes we’ve had:
1. PLPAA researched and located a local professional management company to run the house – collecting rents, paying the bills, overseeing maintenance. PLP has agreed to this service, knowing that they will not have access to the rent money.
2. PLPAA has educated PLP to the real cost of running the house and to how rents must add up to meeting this amount. As a result, they have accepted increased rents for the fall and to charging for summer storage at the house. They have also made plans to accept donations from alums who wish to stay in the house during reunion or Harborfest.
3. PLP has asked alumnae for donations to help with back taxes, but they cannot/do not have access to the funds; moneys donated go directly into an escrow account that will disperse back taxes directly to the County. PLPAA helped to set up this account and to meet with the County to establish a payment plan. We are also working to get the house reassessed in hopes of lowering the assessment and thereby lowering taxes in the future.
4. PLP’s rent will include a modest amount each month to go into a maintenance fund to cover day-to-day house repairs and maintenance. But the hard reality is that fundraising will be needed in the future to truly address the house’s needs, if the sorority feels preserving the house is in their best interest. We have encouraged them to seek professional guidance before proceeding in that direction, and PLPAA has arranged for a contractor to tour the house in June to complete an estimate of costs to repair and/or renovate the house.
5. We are assisting the actives with collecting outstanding rents from people who have graduated. It has been difficult for them to pursue this with successfully with peers while living together (another plus for agreeing to the management company.)
6. Perhaps most importantly, PLPAA will become active with PLP in redesigning Rush and Pledging in an attempt to increase membership in the future and return some of the traditional activities we all remember.
In the past, the active PLP sisters have been alternately treated like experienced adults (given a $40,000/year budget and a house to manage with no guidance) and like children (bailed out whenever they failed.) PLPAA is now determined to firmly provide advice and direction, sharing the mutual goal of preserving our heritage and keeping Phi Lambda Phi alive and vibrant. The reason that you did not find much information about Paula Longway’s letter on Facebook or philamb.org is that PLPAA’s mission statement now clearly states that we do not provide money to the sorority; we provide advice. The fundraising effort is theirs.
I don’t know if all this will succeed in saving the sorority and/or the house, but I do know that Phi Lamb sisters have always been a special breed. We have determination, resilience, and opinions! I have hopes that the sisterhood will continue and thrive because of people like you and me who care about an organization that contributed to the people we grew to become.
As an alumna, I am sending a contribution to the sisters because I believe in the PLP spirit and hope we can pull this off!! Give what you can and don’t give up. We can do this; we can revitalize our beloved sorority so that generations of young women can experience the wonders of sisterhood (and the fun) – just as we did.
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me 585-227-4557. I love connecting with my sisters. Better yet: come to the June Reunion and PLPAA’s annual meeting and chat with me personally.
Love in Phi Lamb,