Sorority to expand headquarters

By Josette Keelor

The national headquarters for sorority Sigma Sigma Sigma, located in Woodstock, plans to expand next year, allowing for a retreat house and a training and conference facility in side-by-side Victorian-style houses.

Two years ago the sorority purchased the house and two lots next door to its current headquarters at 225 N. Muhlenberg St., Woodstock, said Executive Director Marcia Cutter. The groundbreaking will be on Nov. 21.

When the house next door became available, she said, “We were looking to either expand or to purchase nearby.” They had even started working with architects on expanding the property behind their headquarters.

The family of the new location’s previous owners, Dr. Edward K. and Mary S. Mulligan, sold the property at 207 N. Muhlenburg St. to Tri Sigma in December 2011.

After the expected completion of renovations next summer, Cutter said the Mabel Lee Walton National Memorial Headquarters will move next door, and Walton House will become a retreat house.

Currently the house, which opened in 1965, can host about 28 women with alumni or collegiate chapters for retreats and for sisterhood activities like initiations or rituals.

“In the back houses our offices,” Cutter said. “And we’ve kind of creeped into the home part with offices, which is why we really need our own space.”

The first floor of the new headquarters will have offices for administration staff, accounting, payroll and information technology as well as a mailroom and distribution area, board room, small kitchenette and staff break room. The second floor will also have offices, with the 1,000-foot training and conference facility built onto the back and doors leading outside to a founder’s garden below. The third floor will house the Sigma Sigma Sigma Foundation office, which raises funds for the sorority’s primary philanthropy — service to children with emphasis on play therapy for hospitalized children.

In Walton House, the current offices will be turned into a museum for sorority archives, memorabilia and history that currently is in storage.

Cutter said she expects the museum will allow those who visit to “really dig into the history of the organization and see it upfront.”

Tri Sigma was founded in 1898 by eight women at Longwood University in Farmville and now has more than 111,000 members in 105 collegiate chapters nationwide, in addition to about 90 alumni chapters in various cities. Cutter said it’s the only sorority headquartered in Virginia and that it has maintained its Virginia roots in part because of its founders and because it was headquartered in the homes of past sorority presidents, which was typical of many sororities before the last 50 years.

The Woodstock headquarters was named for former President Mabel Lee Walton, who lived with her family in Woodstock. President from 1913 to 1947, she carried the headquarters with her to Florida and back and even to her father’s Woodstock law office.

“The office was wherever she was,” Cutter said.

A groundbreaking for the new headquarters will take place at 10 a.m. Nov. 21 with a short ceremony followed by refreshments at Walton House.

“We’re real excited about it,” Cutter said.

The new house is similar in style to the old, which Cutter said the sorority has dubbed their “heart home.”

“And this still remains our heart home,” she said. “This really is … the heart of the organization.”

For more information about Sigma Sigma Sigma or the groundbreaking ceremony at 10 a.m. Nov. 21, call 540-459-4212 or visit www.sigmasigmasigma.org.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com