Since its formation 126 years ago, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) has admitted nearly one million members through its state, local and international chapters. DAR describes itself as “a womEn’s organization dedicated to promoting historical preservation, education and patriotism and honoring the patriots of the Revolutionary War.” The Rochester Chapter of DAR has strived to emulate this mission since its creation in 1903.
IMPACTING THE COMMUNITY
The Rochester Chapter sponsors American history and good citizen essay contests in local schools, organizes Rochester’s Memorial Day program, publishes an award-winning Veteran Day publication filled with veterans’ personal stories, participates in Olmsted County’s naturalization ceremony, collects books for local literacy programs, hosts public educational programs and maintains the History Center of Olmsted County’s historic William Dee Log Cabin. The group also sponsors the Pipestone Society of the Children of the American Revolution (CAR). Members of CAR, all under age 22, learn about American history and participate in community events, including dressing in patriotic costumes (made by DAR members) for local parades.
Bonnie Kottschade, honorary state DAR regent and Rochester Chapter member, says the organization’s community outreach is why she became involved after retiring. “The DAR Rochester Chapter is very active in the community. I knew if I was going to be part of something, I wanted to be part of an organization that gives back to the community. DAR does that. The things I’m passionate about are part of the DAR’s mission. DAR was something I could get excited about and invest time in.”
Janel Kaster, Rochester Chapter regent, agrees, adding, “Because of how many different committees there are, operating on lots of community projects, there is something for everyone.” There are 35 committees within the Rochester Chapter, all focusing on unique projects.
FINDING FULFILLMENT IN A WORTHY CAUSE
In addition to its multiple current, yearly and ongoing projects, the Rochester Chapter recently purchased an Action Trackchair™ for Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch. The chair gives wounded veterans the ability to travel off smooth pavement and across rougher terrain, such as through the woods. Members donated over $11,000 in three months to buy the chair. The Rochester Chapter has established a relationship with Ironwood Springs, sponsoring a military couple to attend Ironwood’s “Operation Home,” a weekend retreat for returning veterans and their spouses, and several members make quilts that are given to each couple.
Seeing firsthand the positive impact DAR makes in the lives of soldiers and their families brings members great gratification. “It’s the patriotism that draws me (to DAR),” says Bonnie. “DAR members are very patriotic and also support the military. Our ancestors were the first American veterans. My love is veterans and patriotism.”
“Being involved gives you a sense of accomplishment,” says Patty Arndt, Rochester Chapter registrar. “When you sit down at the end of the day and see all the Rochester Chapter has accomplished, it makes you feel good. It’s a good feeling to know an elderly veteran was able to finally tell his story after 50 years of holding it in or a young military couple are having a chance at rebuilding their life after being apart for so long or the new U.S. citizen feels like they belong to a wonderful country called America or that a student is feeling accomplishment because they won an essay contest. It’s all these things that make being part of the DAR worth it.”
THE PATH TO MEMBERSHIP
For Bonnie, Janel and Patty, their DAR path began with their mothers. It was this maternal interest in genealogy and the DAR that influenced their decision to pursue membership. Becoming a member is no simple thing. Those interested in joining should prepare for a challenge.
You must be interested in researching your family history. It takes patience and time to gather all the necessary paperwork proving generational links from you to your Revolutionary War Patriot. Birth, marriage and death documentation must be submitted, along with proof of your ancestor’s patriotic service. Once your genealogy documentation is gathered, the Rochester Chapter submits your application to the national office for approval, which can take up to three months. Despite the time-consuming application process, the women who’ve joined agree they’re happy they took the journey and are proud to be officially recognized as Daughters of the American Revolution.
For more information visit dar.org and rochester-dar.org.
Amy Hahn is a freelance writer.