For 40 years, Jean Chance has been the grand dame of W. R. Chance Jewelers on Main Street, Annapolis, the family business started by her husband’s father more than 60 years ago.
Now, she’s gained a grander title: Worthy Grand Dame of the Grand Chapter of Maryland Order of the Eastern Star. The Order of the Eastern Star is a tradition from her side of the family; her grandparents, father, aunts and uncles all belonged to the fraternal organization now numbering one million members in 10,000 chapters across 20 countries. Men of the Eastern Star are Master Masons, and women of the Eastern Star are affiliated with the Masons by blood or marriage.
The Eastern Star’s “appeal rests in the true beauty of the refreshing and character-building lessons that are so sincerely portrayed in its ritualistic work,” according to the webpage of the Maryland Order.
The Grand Chapter of Maryland encompasses 45 chapters with more than 6,000 members. Jean Chance is also treasurer of the 300-member Annapolis chapter. The 22 members of the Grand Family — to whose number Chance has been elected — and the statewide members of the Eastern Star have become her family away from home, she says.
“I have friends all over the United States and all over Maryland, and we’re all working for charity,” Chance said.
Each year, the Order of the Eastern Star hosts fundraisers for an array of causes including heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and youth and scholarship organizations. Last year, the Grand Chapter of Maryland raised more than $135,000 for its charities.
The Grand Dame plans the fundraising events and sees that the funds are distributed among the charities. Along with the Worthy Grand Patron, the Grand Dame adopts a special project, a charity of her choice, which also benefits from that year’s fundraising.
Chance chose Maryland Therapeutic Riding as her charity. She also works directly with Maryland Therapeutic Riding, helping organize its biggest fundraising event of the year, the annual concert.
“They use horses to help people who have physical and mental disability,” Chance explained. “They also have a program called Horses for Heroes that works with military veterans and active duty military who have come home from Iraq or Afghanistan. There’s a healing power of horses.”
As Grand Dame, Chance has her own considerable powers.
“We do an awful lot of good,” she said of the Grand Chapter of Maryland Order of the Eastern Star. “I’m very lucky to be here.”