By Diane Barney
Soroptimist International of Vacaville didn’t let a global pandemic stop it from celebrating a number of outstanding women in the community with accolades, grants, donations and pins via a lunchtime Zoom meeting June 16.
“Our awards honor women of all ages, celebrating the natural evolution of a woman’s life,” said Lisa Hilas, president of SI Vacaville. “It starts with the Violet Richardson awards, which goes to young women between the ages of 14 and 18. Then there’s the Live Your Dream awards, which support women who are head of their household, often with young children, and still trying to get their education so they can land better jobs. And finally, we offer the Ruby Award to women who have accomplished great service in their community.”
Three amazing woman were equally honored with a Ruby Award – named after the first president of the Washington, D.C., Soroptimist Club, Ruby Lee Minar. The award acknowledges outstanding community achievements and comes with a $1,000 donation in each winners’ name, made to their charity of choice.
Karenda Stinnett, founder and deputy director of Solano Advocates for Victims of Violence (SAVV) helped identify gaps in services needed for the healing of those impacted by violence. SAVV delivers a comprehensive program that empowers and supports the journey from victim to successful survivor. Stinnett’s charity of choice is the Courage Center for Children funded through the Napa Solano SANE/SART programs.
Lynn Gallagher, a charter member of the NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement Program, has been helping families through end-of-life challenges since 1987. She has also been active in her church, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and in food distribution programs to help those in need. Her charity of choice is NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement.
Pat Dennis, is a volunteer extraordinaire in Solano County and has held leadership positions with the NorthBay Healthcare Guild, the Saturday Club and the Wednesday Club of Suisun. She has also been involved as a volunteer for the Vacaville Museum. Her charity of choice is the Saturday Club’s scholarship program.
Two young women walked away with Violet Richardson awards, honoring them for community service. Violet Richardson was president of the first Soroptimist club, which was founded in Alameda County in 1921.
Tatum Wurzbach, is a recent graduate of Buckingham Charter Magnet High School. As president, she led her S Club to raise funds and awareness to help deliver feminine hygiene products for girls in Rwanda, enabling girls to continue to attend school, which helps reduce unemployment, sex trafficking and children having children. She received $1,000 for her efforts, and $1,000 went to the Days for Girls Rwanda outreach project.
Vanessa Lechuga, a recent graduate of Will C. Wood High School, earned $500, and chose to have $250 donated to the 68 Hours of Hunger program, which helps feed students during weekends, when they might otherwise go hungry and $250 for the Will C. Wood Associated Student Body for her key project of composting at the school. Lechuga was president of her school’s Interact Club, active in the Associated Student Body and an advocate for the environment, volunteering for Earth Day , Coastal Creek Clean Up and Park Clean Up events.
Four women were awarded Live Your Dream awards to help them continue their education and support their families.
LaToya Mosley is the first-place winner, earning $5,000. She earned an associate’s degree in science but wants to earn her bachelor’s in health care administration. She is raising two children and has dreams of owning a nonprofit health care organization.
Two women, Monique Barrett and Lindsey Sorensen, earned $2,000 each.
Barrett quit a full-time job so she could attend school to become a policy analyst and help analyze social issues such as welfare, poverty, substance abuse education, education, discrimination and health disparities. She wants to bring out policy and legislative change, while making the future brighter for her and her daughter.
Sorensen has turned her life around and is raising her 11-year-old while attending Solano College to work toward becoming an X-ray technician.
Jennifer Artz was presented with $1,000. She has escaped abuse and addiction and is raising three girls while attending Solano Community College to earn a degree so she can become a social worker.
Liz Fuller, chief consultant for the Assembly Aging and Long-Term Care Committee, was the afternoon’s keynote speaker, touching on women’s rights and the suffragette movement that celebrated success 100 years ago when women finally claimed the right to vote. “It took many women fighting to make it happen,” she said, noting that women must continue to fight for the right to serve in the Legislature and work to hold important jobs.
Fuller has worked 20 years in the Capitol, with 13 of those learning on the job as Consultant to the Legislative Women’s Caucus. Her knowledge has grown in all areas impacting women and children, with an emphasis in lactation accommodation, early care and education, military families and women in the military, harassment and sexual violence, economic and reproductive justice, domestic violence and human trafficking. She was recently honored by Leadership California as a “Capitol Woman Who Gets the Job Done.”
“We still do not have parity, there is much work ahead,” she said.
It was also an afternoon for Soroptimists to honor some of their own, for longevity, service and commitment.
Nancy Bennett was surprised to learn that she had been chosen to receive a Fellow Pin by her club, for all the work she’s done in the five years since she joined the group. A donation of $1,000 in her name will support women who are in the final phase of their doctoral degrees. Her daughter pinned her.
President-Elect Mary Dickey received her first Fellow pin presented by Pam Parker, president of the Founder Region Fellowship committee. Mary made monthly payments and reached $1,000, and is well on her way to earning another, said Parker.
The club’s Laurel Pin went to longtime member Lenora Fuller. A $1,000 donation made in her name will support the Live Your Dream and Dream It Be It programs. Her family presented her with leis and pinned her.
Shauna Manina was honored for 15 years of membership. Earning Five-year pins were Susan Mays, Nancy Bennett, Ellen Simonin, Bridgit Strachan, Beth Rowe and Sandy Esparza.