By Diane Barney
VACAVILLE — With a theme of
“Can We Do It? Yes We Can!”
Soroptimist International of Vacaville celebrated a room full of amazing women – and a couple of extraordinary men – handing out $14,000 during the 2019 Live Your Dream Awards Banquet March 19 at the Vacaville Opera House.
At that point, Assemblyman Jim Frazier, a recipient of one of three Soroptimist Fellow honors – stepped up to the stage and pledged another $500 for each award winner.
“I am just blown away by his continued generosity and support,” said SI Vacaville President Beth Rowe. “We are very lucky to have him share our mission and champion our causes.”
The pledge came less than two weeks after SI Vacaville announced it is working with Frazier on legislation to ensure that all rape kits in California get tested.
“He doesn’t just say he’s going to support us, he takes action to help us in our mission to improve the lives of women and girls in our community,” Rowe said.
During the evening eight women – from community activists to single moms – were honored with cash awards by SI Vacaville.
In the Live Your Dream program, five women collectively received $10,000. Two young women from local high schools earned a total of $3,000 through the Violet Richardson Award. And not only did Emma Green earn the 2019 Ruby Award for community service, but Rowe announced that the club’s 2018 winner, Deanna Allen, founder of Abundant Place, was selected to move on to the organization’s regional competition.
In addition to Frazier, longtime member Jill Hunter was presented with a Fellowship pin, while Rowe accepted a pin on behalf of the entire club. The pins reflect $1,000 each, donated to support a Soroptimist program that helps women complete their doctorates.
Then Hunter’s husband, Ken Hunter, was honored with a Laurel Society Pin, thanking him for 40-plus years of supporting his wife’s involvement in SI Vacaville, and for attending events and donating his artwork. A $1,000 donation was made in his name to the program that supports the Soroptimist Live Your Dream and Dream It, Be It awards.
Author, editor and founder of the Robby Poblete Foundation, Pati Navalta, gave the keynote presentation, encouraging women to “speak up, step up and roll up your sleeves. Listening to your theme, we have more in common that I realized.”
After her son’s death, she wrote, “A Better Place, A Memoir of Peace in the Face of Tragedy,” and launched the Robby Poblete Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to decreasing crime by providing a safe and easy way to dispose of unwanted guns through a gun buyback program. The goal, she explains, is to transform weapons of violence into instruments of peace and opportunity through an art program.
Amanda Caudel, a mother with three children, took top honors in the Live Your Dream category and received $4,000. She is working to attain her associate degree in human services, with a minor in early childhood education. Her goal is to work at a local family resource center. She credits the Benicia Family Resource Center with keeping her from being homeless and keeping her lights on.
Courtney Ross, a mother with two daughters, was honored with a $3,000 award. She is pursuing a career in nursing. She works hard to change the stigma of being a teen mom.
Candace Cureton, a student at Solano Community College and mother of two, earned a $1,000 award. She said Opportunity House gave her the tools she needed, when she was homeless, and put her on the path toward getting her education. She hopes to become a nurse and would like to support the program that helped her.
Elizabeth DeHart, a working mother who has had to overcome numerous challenges, including an eating disorder, is now on her way to achieving an associate degree in kinesiology. She was presented with a $1,000 award.
Jasmine McCrory collected $1,000 to pursue her advanced degree in criminal justice. Her life experiences have fueled her passion for a career as a sexually violent predator evaluator for the California Department of State Hospitals. A single mother of twins, McCrory’s goal is to complete her associate degree in criminal justice before earning a bachelor’s and then a doctorate in psychology.
Tristan Keene, a junior at Benicia High School, was presented with $1,000 and $500 each will be donated in her name to the Benicia High Intersectional Feminism Club and St. Paul’s Episcopalian Church. She is the president of the Feminism Club and vice president of the Gay Straight Alliance. Her mission is to create a safer and more inclusive school environment. She also serves as a youth counselor at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Kids Vacation Academy every summer.
Megan Vershuur, co-president of the Best Buddies chapter at Vacaville High School, earned a $500 award and another $500 will be donated to Vacaville Best Buddies. Vershuur was determined to help the Vacaville chapter better understand the group’s mission and to ensure that everyone at Vacaville High School had a friend. She and her co-president attended a Best Buddies Leadership Conference in Indiana and came back filled with ideas and enthusiasm. Their group has grown from 15 students serving 10 with disabilities to 28 serving about 50.
This year’s Ruby Award winner, Emma Green, was nominated for her outstanding work as the Community Meals Program coordinator at Epiphany Episcopal Church. Green was lauded for her efforts to make a difference in the lives of homeless individuals through a multiple-church ecumenical program that is unique to Vacaville.
“This program feeds not only homeless people but also the working poor, and anyone who doesn’t want to eat alone, no questions asked,” according to the nomination.
Green helped expand “The Navigators,” a local community outreach and resource organization that uses trained volunteers to help the homeless get jobs, housing, clothing, medical assessments, free showers and more.
It was also a night for Soroptimists to honor some of their own, for longevity, service and commitment. Debbie Hitzeman was honored for 40 years in the organization. Dawn Shepherd and Faye Sheppard both celebrated their 15-year anniversary. Diane Barney celebrated 10 years, while Celina Hatt, Chantel Reyes, Lisa Hilas and Allison Catapano all celebrated their five-year anniversary with SI Vacaville.
Soroptimist International of Vacaville celebrated the International Day of Women March 8 by announcing its efforts to work with Assemblymember Jim Frazier in creating legislation to ensure the testing of all existing rape kits created between 2009 and 2017 in California.
According to Frazier, AB 1496 will be amended next week to require law enforcement submit all rape kits in their possession to crime labs for testing. “Crime labs will then be responsible for testing the kits within the timeframe indicated,” he wrote in a letter read by his senior field representative Dorris Panduro to an audience of 60-plus gathered at the Vacaville Museum.
SI Vacaville President Beth Rowe said her organization has been on a mission since learning that some 18,000 kits in California have gone untested and will be destroyed.
In Solano County, the numbers aren’t as bleak, because the county participated in a pilot program beginning in 2011, which ensured testing occurred.
“But there is still a gap between 2009 and 2011 here, with many untested kits,” said Rowe.
In Vacaville, 10 fell into that window. Since it cost between $500 and $2,500 per rape kit, SI Vacaville made it the group’s 2018-19 project to finance testing. First, $6,000 came from the Solano 100 Women Who Care group after Rowe gave a powerful presentation. A few months later, Assemblymember Frazier made a $4,000 donation, enabling all 10 kits to be tested.
“Of those, one had a match,” Kari Lee, Vacaville Police Department property and evidence supervisor announced to the gathering. “We hope one day we’ll see justice for the victim in this case.”
Rowe thanked the Vacaville Police Department for allowing SI Vacaville to pay for the testing and to ensure there were no kits left behind.”
“You might not think one in 10 is a big deal, but it is,” Lee told the gathering. “That’s 10 percent, which is impressive.”
Now SI Vacaville is setting its sights higher by working with Frazier’s office.
In the past, California had a statute of limitations on rape cases, so after 10 years, if a kit hadn’t been tested, it was destroyed. Recent legislation eliminates the statute of limitations and ensures that kits collected after 2017 will be tested.
“That’s great, moving forward, but there are eight years of evidence that will be destroyed unless we take action,” Rowe said. “In our county, we’re only worried about two years of kits, but in other parts of the state, it’s eight years. Kits are being destroyed as we speak.”
“Organizations such as Soroptimist are key in bringing forth issues that need attention to the forefront, particularly those that affect women and girls, so that elected officials, such as myself, are aware and can be of service,” wrote Frazier. “That is where there was not a second thought, when asked to contribute to assist with having the backlogged kits tested. And what an accomplishment, 100 percent of the rape kits at the Vacaville Police Department have been tested. Lives will be impacted…”
Rowe said it is important for victims of sexual assault to know they are being heard, that they are not just a case number on a shelf.
“We hope to inspire women in other communities to speak up on important issues like these. It is a core value of our mission to support women and girls and to be a voice for those who don’t have a voice. I think that collectively, we can make huge impact.”
The announcement came at a special reception at the Vacaville Museum, where SI Vacaville is sponsoring an art exhibit by renowned artist Malaquis Montoya, who attended the International Day of Women event. His exhibit, titled “Women I Have Encountered,” features 35 original paintings and prints that depict the significant impact women have had on Montoya, a renowned social justice artist and Solano County resident.
“His work ties in perfectly to our mission,” said Rowe. “He is quoted as saying, ‘What better function for art at this time than as a voice for the voiceless?’ That’s what we’re trying to do as well.”
Although the exhibit was originally slated to close on March 8, the run has been extended until March 17. Gallery hours are 1 to 4:30 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Adults are asked to pay a $3 admission/donation fee, while senior citizens and students are $2.
At Tuesday’s meeting, we had the pleasure of welcoming Jane Johnson from Child Haven.
Child Haven is a Solano County based agency specializing in mental health services for children up to 18 years old. Child Haven treats children and adolescents who have suffered trauma through neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, bullying , domestic and community violence. A multi- disciplinary, strength-based, approach takes into the account the child environmental, physiological, and development attributes, as well as psychological symptoms.
You can help Child Haven by volunteering or supporting the program with cash donations or sponsorships. For more information, you can contact Child Haven at 707-425-5744 or email at Donations@Child-Haven.org
We also had the pleasure of welcoming Lanie Keystone, Vacaville Museum’s new Executive Director! We look forward to the museum hosting our International Women’s Day this Friday.
Bridgit Strachan announced that Deanna Allen, our Ruby Award recipient from our Awards Dinner last year, has been selected as the Regional Ruby Award WINNER!!!!!! Way to go Deanna!
The excitement builds as we look forward to Our Awards Dinner is Tuesday, March 19.
There will be no regular club meeting that day.
Congrats to us -- #SIVacaville -- for being recognized By Soroptimist International of the Americas (SIA) as a member of the Dream Chasers Club. Our contribution of $5,200 in the 2018-19 year was acknowledged. Our gift will be joined with those from hundreds of other clubs to enact great change in the lives of women and girls who need help the most.
"On behalf of SIA, and the women and girls whose dreams will come true because of your generosity, please extend my gratitude to your club members. Without them and their participation in SI/Vacaville, CA, SIA couldn’t change the thousands of lives we do each year," wrote Lee Ann Cochran, chair of the fundraising council.
We are honored to be honored!
To further their education, four college students from Vacaville have earned $7,500 in scholarships from Soroptimist International of Vacaville, it was announced in June.
Victoria Joyce, Caitlin Winn, Sarah McElwain and Tyanna Cordero were honored during a Soroptimist luncheon in downtown Vacaville June 28.
Joyce is currently enrolled at California State University, Channel Islands, and is majoring in environmental science and resource management with a minor in political science. She received a $2,500 scholarship. She hopes to one day work with a nonprofit organization that focuses on environmental conservation and restoration. She is a 2016 graduate of Will C. Wood.
Winn attended Solano Community College this past semester and plans to attend Pacific Union College starting in the fall. She received a $2,500 scholarship. She is majoring in nursing/physical therapy with a minor in psychology and foreign language. Her career goal is to be a nurse in an emergency room or pediatric recovery. She is a 2016 graduate of Heritage Peak Charter School.
McElwain is currently a senior at California State University, Sacramento, where she is majoring in communications. She received a $1,000 scholarship. She is pursuing a career in corporate management. She is currently employed at Chipotle, where she is applying what she is learning in college in a daily basis. She is a 2014 graduate of Will C. Wood.
Through the organization’s STEPS (Soroptimists Teaching and Empowering for Personal Success) program, Cordero received a $1,500 scholarship and a computer tablet to use as she pursues her education at Solano Community College. She is a 2017 graduate of Country High School.
2018-19 New Board of Directors Are Ready
to Make Incredible
With a theme of “When women Invest in Each Other, Incredible Things Happen!” Vacaville resident Beth Rowe has taken the reins as president of Soroptimist International of Vacaville for the 2018-19 term.
The nonprofit international organization dedicated to making the community and the world a better place for women and girls selected Lisa Hilas to take on the role of vice president/president-elect, Chantel Reyes as recording secretary, Nancy Bennett as corresponding secretary, Denise Suihkonen as treasurer and Suzanne Clark as assistant treasurer.
Serving in the one-year director role will be Bridgit Strachan, while Linda Johnson will take the two-year director duties.
The one-year delegate will be Faye Sheppard and two-year delegate will be Colleen Berumen. The one-year alternate delegate is Clara Oakes and the two-year alternate delegate is Vera Gleason.
New officers were installed during a special ceremony at the Saturday Club in Vacaville on June 12.
Soroptimist International of Vacaville was chartered in 1960 and will celebrate its 58th birthday on Aug. 20.
It was a night of cheers and tears, stories of courage and determination as Soroptimist International of Vacaville honored a room full of amazing women and gave away nearly $14,000 during the 2018 Dream Awards Banquet March 21, 2018, at the Opera House in downtown Vacaville.
LeTrianna B. Starling took top honors in the Live Your Dream category and received $4,000 to help her complete her education. Returning to college after an 11-year hiatus, she has been inspired to pursue a career in nursing, with a focus on mental health issues.
She said becoming a mother two years ago gave her the strength, confidence and determination to follow her dream. She is currently attending Solano Community College, with the goal of eventually becoming a registered nurse.
Rae A. Quinata received $3,000 to help her achieve her dream of completing a four-year degree, which will open up new career possibilities. As a single mother, she’s raised four children, always putting their goals and dreams ahead of hers. Now it’s time she followed her own dream, she told the audience.
A woman described as a survivor, a spark plug and a messenger of hope for incarcerated women earned the distinguished Ruby Award for outstanding service to the community. Deanna Allen, speaker, author and founder of Abundant Place, A Better Way, was heralded for her prison ministry outreach.
Allen was nominated by longtime Soroptimist member Wendy Wasserman, as well as coworker and friend Pat Nicodemus, who won the SI Vacaville Ruby Award in 2014 for her role in establishing the Women’s Reentry Achievement Program (WRAP) in Solano County jails.
SI Vacaville donated $1,000 in Allen’s name to Abundant Place.
Brooke Fox, executive director for the Downtown Vacaville Business Improvement District and charter member of SI Vacaville Twilight organization, was the evening’s featured speaker. She described her hometown as “a city of 98,000 that thinks it’s still a small town of 9,000.”
As a third-generation Soroptimist, Fox lauded SI Vacaville’s good work and pointed to several downtown examples of success, including donations to the community’s library and museum, an after-school reading program, establishment of a “Place of Peace,” in Andrews Park, the creation of an outreach program for at-risk high school students and more. She applauded the organization’s theme this year of “Cultivating Community,” comparing downtown to a giant, patchwork garden that needs a community of gardeners to keep it growing.
SI Vacaville used the evening to celebrate and encourage a number of high school students to continue their good work in making the community a better place.
Bridget Higgins, 18, a Vanden High School senior, took home the Violet Richardson award for community service.
She has volunteered with the USO, founded peer-to-peer counseling at her school and served as co-president of Best Buddies, but the biggest impact she’s had on community service has been her involvement with TEAM Vacaville, she said.
It stands for “Together Everyone Always Matters,” and it brings together kind young leaders with special needs friends.
The need for support for special needs children in the community has “always been grossly undermined,” she wrote in her application. “Most of the time it doesn’t even register as an issue within our status quo as a nation. Too often these children are tossed aside and disregarded, dehumanized even, to a point that entirely contradicts the essence of American ideals.”
$1,500 will go to Bridgit and $1,500 to TEAM Vacaville.
Five “stars” of the Soroptimist’ STEPS (Soroptimist Teaching and Empowering for Personal Success) Program were given $500 scholarships each and honored for their commitment to the program. They are Country High School students Crystal Barallobre, Faith Bruns, Gillian Langwell, Kylissa Eckley and Leeann Rassitan.
STEPS coordinator Linda Johnson also surprised Country High Principal Ami Blackstone with flowers, thanking her for her support.
It was also a night for Soroptimists to honor some of their own, for longevity, service and commitment, explained club President Colleen Berumen.
Longtime members Stephanie Corrington and Wendy Wasserman received Fellowship pins, with money donated in their names toward educational programs for women and girls. Then Wendy surprised her husband, Jim Kellogg with his own Fellowship pin, thanking him for being her rock.
Colleen was presented with the prestigious Laurel Society Pin, and a donation made in her name to the program that supports the Live Your Dream and Dream It, Be It awards.
Longtime distinguished member, member of fellowship and past president Jackie Ricketts was honored for 40 years of membership in SI Vacaville.
Celebrating 35 years in the club were Denise Suihkonen and Judy Dykes, both past presidents. Denise is a fellow, a member of the Laurel Society and longtime treasurer. Judy is a life member and member of the Laurel Society.
Mary Ann Thurmond is celebrating 30 years as a Soroptimist, having transferred from the Fairfield club years ago.
Distinguished member Clara Oakes was honored for 20 years as a Soroptimist. She is a fellow and member of the Laurel Society, and has served as president for SI Vacaville twice.
Kathleen Heeren and Yvonne Thrasher celebrated 10 years with the organization. Kathleen is a member of the Laurel Society and a fellow.
Berumen, Dilenna Harris and Susan Freedlun all celebrated their five-year anniversary with SI Vacaville.
Happy 54th Birthday to our Vacaville Club today- we celebrated by honoring former presidents and playing Bingo! LOL, it was fun.
We are three weeks into our new club year and we added four new members already. Wow, good job us. Please spread the news and tell your friends.
No more should people say, " What is Soroptimist?"
Membership is open to any individual who cares about our core mission, improving the lives of women and girls. We act locally with our STEPS program- assisting young at-risk girls at Country High, and globally we support the many outreach programs that our parent organization, Soroptimist International of the Americas, monitors and supports. No girl left behind.
We are a member of the Founder Region, which is one of 28 regions within the Americas; there are six districts or 56 clubs within our Founder Region.
We are a force to be reckoned with, and I am so proud of our efforts.
Tell your friends and come visit us any Tuesday. Be sure to attend our major fundraiser, The Lobster Dinner on Oct. 18th at the Ulatis Community Center.
I had a fabulous, inspiring time in Vancouver. The thrill of walking into a room of one thousand women who share your desire to make the world a better place filled me with awe and hope. These fellow Soroptimists gathered in Vancouver at the Soroptimist International of the Americas biennial meeting the end of July. I was with former President Sandy Esparza, and my sister Jackie DeVries. Both brilliant and fun loving ladies who helped me distribute the wonderful luggage tags from Wendy Wasserman - they were a hit. Lenora Fuller labeled them all Vacaville, California. These cute gifts thrilled the women.
I was excited to be invited to meet the head honcho herself, President Cheri Fleming, thanks to the generosity and foresight of our club. We were one of the clubs who had the wisdom to realize that giving at least 10% of our total funds to promote all Soroptimist programs was an idea that made total sense. Thanks former President Clara Oakes for helping us make that decision and to former President Sandy Esparza who followed her lead.
We were listed as Dream Builders in the program, and I made sure everyone at my table knew it! Pres. Cheri is a little tiny thing but a giant in her own way. I shook her hand, thanked her for inviting me then proceeded to mingle with the other club presidents in order to pick their brains about their fundraisers. I also shared our success with our STEPS girls- our on-going local educational impact project that supports at-risk girls in our community's continuation high school. After about forty five minutes I asked Pres. Cheri if she was going to make a speech, she said NO, so I said, " In that case, I am out of here and on to my Region's party! Thanks for thinking of us!"
(Notice the view behind our photo. A 360 degree view of the Vancouver harbor. There are perks to being the president!)
More about the convention later....
Dona Gaddis Wolf President of Soroptimist Founder Region and Shannon Richards District Director came to club today to support Patricia Hunter and her personal and compelling presentation about Domestic Violence. 20 20 the TV show was there too showing a interest in Patricia's story. Patricia story about her daughter's domestic abuse, will be aired sometime this year. What is important is that our club was present to support Patricia and her presentation was excellent and now there is a message that will get out to the people.