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.