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Operation Secret Closet
Copyright 2009 by The Eleusis of Chi Omega
The Silicon Valley Alumnae took on a huge endeavor, which they called Operation Secret Closet, to assist Mu/U of California– Berkeley and Omicron Mu/Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo. “It was unusual as far as alumnae activities go,” said Marci Heldt Risoen, Iota Delta/San Jose State U, president of the alumnae organization. “My e-mails (about the endeavor) piqued the interest of many otherwise dormant alumnae, and it was fun to read the comments and encouragement I received from people who would have participated if they lived closer. They were curious to know how a few women could be successful in what should have been a commercial effort. That we completed the whole project in just three weeks is amazing.”

The Silicon Valley Alumnae made 200 initiation robes!
Initially, the alumnae planned to construct 130 esoteric costumes for newly chartered Omicron Mu Chapter at Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo. Seventy additional robes were made when Mu Chapter's personnel advisor, Caryl Pogue James, Xi/Northwestern U, discovered what the Silicon Valley Alumnae were up to and asked if robes could be made for Mu Chapter, too. Mu, chartered more than 100 years ago, has been slowing replacing their esoteric wear and, as a result, had a completely mis-matched wardrobe of what should be identical costumes. Now, thanks to the generosity of the alumnae, Mu finally has matching initiation wear!

Marci Heldt Risoen, Iota Delta/San Jose State U, who led this brave undertaking, credits her ability to organize the effort to her training as a maker of marching-band show flags. “While this job was a larger undertaking than flags, I had complete confidence that it could be done. My flag-making background provided me the experience of setting up piecework jobs that are easily achievable by those who've never sewn before. And, of course, my inventory of sergers and sewing machines facilitated making volunteers productive. I was very pleased with the quality of what the team delivered."

Marci continues, "As an aside, 15 years ago, I organized the effort to make esoteric robes for Nu Alpha/Stanford U when they recolonized. We made six officer robes and 60 member robes and drapes. The sewing team of four people worked independently using their own sewing machines. It took months to complete the project and the sewing quality was inconsistent. The Omincron Mu/CalPoly San Luis Obispo robes are much nicer and will likely last longer. Plus, we bonded as a team working while on them.

"I hope that this story will inspire other alumnae chapters to assist their local collegiate chapters (old and new) in building up their esoteric inventory."

You'll find it interesting to know that the project required: 
 - 185 volunteer hours
 - 570 yards of fabric
 - 350 yards of rope
 - 50,000 yards of thread
 - A passion for Chi Omega

Fabulous prizes were awarded to volunteers for productivity: five sewing machines and four coveted Chi O lunch totes. The grand prize was a 75-minute stone massage at La Belle in Palo Alto!

"Everyone had a great time," says Marci, "and these two chapters have beautiful robes that may outlive their creators!”