Soroptimists celebrate 25 years of helping women

Mary Johnson, Gail Pierce, and Ellen Edwards, members of Soroptimist International of South Whidbey show off a few of the more than 20 unique purses filled with valuable prizes and gift cards that will be featured at the silent and live auction of the 25th Anniversary Celebration. - Photo courtesy of Soroptimist International of South Whidbey
Mary Johnson, Gail Pierce, and Ellen Edwards, members of Soroptimist International of South Whidbey show off a few of the more than 20 unique purses filled with valuable prizes and gift cards that will be featured at the silent and live auction of the 25th Anniversary Celebration.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Soroptimist International of South Whidbey

Whatever is best for women is their main goal.

They are sisters in a historic cause that has blended the Latin words of “soror” and “optima” to identify themselves as the world’s Soroptimists.

Loosely translated, the word means “best for women.” But there is nothing ambiguous about how Soroptimist International of South Whidbey Island has translated its singular goal into 25 years of dedication to making sure other women can do their best.

They will gather to celebrate the best of women among them, and their big anniversary, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22 at Greenbank Farm’s main barn. The night will include a “Purses for Purpose” fundraising auction.

Founded in 1921, the Soroptimists is an international volunteer organization for business and professional women who work to improve the lives of women and girls in local communities and throughout the world.

Soroptimist International has approximately 95,000 members in more than 120 countries who contribute time and financial support to community-based and international projects. The Soroptimists of South Whidbey are proud to celebrate a quarter century of helping women and girls in the local community.

Current president Gail Pierce is proud, too, of what the Soroptimists have accomplished locally, and can easily recall a number of projects that have made a difference through the years. Longtime residents may readily remember those efforts: the haunted house at the fairgrounds, the production of a Whidbey Island Calendar, sponsorship of the volunteer-built Castle Park more than 20 years ago, and the Crisis Nursery Project that served a number of families for several years.

Today, folks may be familiar with current projects such as the Island Girls “Live Their Dreams” Daycamp and the “Heart of a Woman” program which provided heart-screening for hundreds of women in conjunction with Whidbey General Hospital’s Wellness Program, an effort that included follow-up workshops for those at risk for heart disease.

Local Soroptimists also sponsor “Kicking and Screaming,” a self-defense training workshop for girls, as well as having begun the “S Club,” a community service club at South Whidbey High School.

Pierce, too, is particularly proud of the organization’s involvement with affordable housing.

“As current president, I have the opportunity to select a focus project, and mine is related to affordable and transitional housing on South Whidbey,” Pierce said.

“Our club recently participated in a Habitat for Humanity work party. With a crew of Soroptimists and a group of high school girls who belong to the S Club which we sponsor, we primed and painted most of the interior of a house under construction in Freeland.”

Another program that is high on the pride list for local Soroptimists is the Whidbey Island Share a Home program that began as a focus project for past Soroptimist president Karen Thomas.

WISH went on to become its own nonprofit, and today the organization serves the whole island by matching home providers who have extra space with home seekers in need of a place to stay with reduced rent.

Pierce said she will continue to add her focus to WISH, as Soroptimists plan to continue raising funds for the organization.

“Our community has a big heart, and with all the housing available here, surely we can work together to find a way to keep a roof over the heads of homeless children,” Pierce said.

The goals of the Soroptimists are never-ending, and they strive to keep their cause alive by inspiring the work of all women by providing several scholarships and grants.

Annual awards include the Violet Richardson Award ($1,000), which recognizes a teen girl for outstanding community service; the Woman’s Opportunity Award, which provides $1,000 to single women returning to college; as well as a $1,000 vocational/technical scholarship to women seeking a two-year degree or certification.

They also provide $500 Mary Broderick Scholarships to graduating S Club seniors enrolled in college who have met the goal of contributing 200 hours of community service during their high school years.

Finally, the Ruby Award recognizes women in the community for making a difference in women’s lives, and the Dorothy Cleveland award acknowledges a Soroptimist for outstanding service to the club and community.

All of these accomplishments are cause for celebration, though resting on their laurels is not on the Soroptimist agenda, as is apparent from this sisterhood that keeps reaching toward the future.

While raising important funds, the anniversary party will celebrate the group’s history of service to the community, reunite past presidents and members and auction off a variety of purses filled with gift cards for restaurants and stores, gift certificates for local services, Hawaiian vacations, and other gifts donated by generous community merchants and supporters.

Guests will be treated to a wine tasting from three local wineries and some appetizers, while auctioneer Sue Frause keeps things moving along.

Tickets for the event are $25 and can be reserved by calling 579-1948. Tickets can also be purchased at the door.

The Soroptimists of South Whidbey meet at 5:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month at Useless Bay Golf Club for dinner.

They are currently seeking applicants for the Violet Richardson Award, which has a Dec. 30 deadline for application. For information about meetings, awards or projects, call 331-4127.

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