You’ve heard of the Red Hat Society, an organization geared to 50+ women? Well, Mary Jo Wallo wasn’t quite ready to join. At her 50th birthday party six years ago, she got a red hat as a gag gift and remembered saying to her friends, “I’m not ready.” Another friend suggested a red thong was more in keeping with Mary Jo’s style, and so an idea was formed.
Over a few more discussions (wine was included), the red thong morphed into a blue one – “blue represents friendship,” Mary Jo says. Plus it reminds her of the ocean where she surfs a lot (she confesses to working out 60 hours a week). The end result: The Blue Thong Society: A social club with community activism that was modeled after the Clinton Global Initiative, albeit with a dash of Junior League. “We wanted to make it meaningful,” she says “And that’s what we women do well.”
How it works: Individual chapters are run from various cities, often in a grassroots way. Once the group is assembled, they have three months to decide what local charity they’re going to contribute to, whether it be a local homeless shelter, food bank, habitat for humanity, Planned Parenthood, whatever.
In six years the society, which goes by the motto: “Good Fun, Good Friends, Good Works,” has grown to thousands, both nationally and internationally. “We’re in Africa, Pago Pago, Costa Rica,” says Mary Jo. And she’s formed strategic partnerships with the American Red Cross among several other organizations to both offer help and expand opportunities for members. The group even has an annual cruise (begun last year), which entails workshops with partners like Prudential and the Leads Club, as well as lots of socializing, “Two days in Cabo and a private beach party,” says the recently crowned grandma who also runs a successful insurance business. “Come join the fun.”