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Soroptimist of SCV names award winners

Women are honored for making a difference and overcoming obstacles

Posted: March 19, 2009 12:26 a.m.
Updated: March 19, 2009 4:30 a.m.

WOA winner Kristi Robinson with judges Marilyn Williams, Gregg Goodman and Vivian Rebel and Soroptimists Kaye Cruger and Carolyn Brimer.

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The Soroptimist International of Santa Clarita Valley recently held its annual awards breakfast at the Community Center in Newhall, honoring the recipients of the three awards sponsored by the club including the Women's Opportunity Award, the Women Making a Difference Award and the Violet Richardson Award.

"This is one of the club's favorite events. It's inspiring to meet these deserving recipients and it reminds us what the club is all about - women helping women and girls," said Lisa Schuman, president-elect.

Opportunity award
The Women's Opportunity Awards program is Soroptimist's major project. Through the program, clubs in 19 countries and territories assist women who provide the primary source of financial support for their families by giving them the resources they need to improve their education, skills, and employment prospects.

Each year, more than $1 million is disbursed through cash awards at various levels of the organization. Recipients, many of whom have overcome enormous obstacles including poverty, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol abuse, may use the awards to offset any costs associated with their efforts to attain higher education, such as books, childcare and transportation.

Eligible applicants must be women who provide the primary financial support for their families, and who are enrolled in or have been accepted to a vocational/skills training program or an undergraduate degree program. Applicants must demonstrate financial need, and cannot have already earned an undergraduate degree. Only residents of Soroptimist International of the Americas' 19 member countries and territories are eligible to apply.

Since the Women's Opportunity Awards program began in 1972, nearly $25 million has been disbursed to help tens of thousands of women achieve their dreams of a better life for themselves and their families.

This year's Soroptimist of SCV Women's Opportunity Award winner was Kristi Robinson. The club presented Robinson, a college student and single mother of three, with a check for $1,500, which she will use to continue her education and improve her life.

"I have learned that all of my disadvantages could become advantages and help me become a better, stronger and more determined person," said Robinson.

Making a difference
The Soroptimist Making a Difference for Women Award program acknowledges women who, through their personal or professional activities, are working to improve the lives of other women and girls. Examples include: Spearheading an effort to open a domestic violence shelter, beginning a mentoring program for at-risk girls, or lobbing companies to provide on-site childcare.

The program begins on the club level, where the type of recognition varies. Award winners at the club level are eligible for additional awards at other levels of the organization. The finalist receives a $5,000 donation to the charitable organization of her choice.

Colleen Shaffer, breast cancer survivor and founder of the Circle of Hope, was named the recipient of the award. Circle of Hope, Inc. became a 501c non-profit in January 2004 to offer financial and emotional assistance to individuals with breast cancer who live, work in or receive treatment in the SCV.

Shaffer shared with the audience that donations were up 67 percent last year and despite the tight economic climate, she expects to exceed that in 2009.

Violet Richardson
The Soroptimist organization is especially concerned with the challenges facing today's girls and young women, said Schuman.

The organization launched the Violet Richardson Award program in 2000 as a way to recognize girls for their volunteer service to their communities.

The program honors young women between the ages of 14 and 17 whose volunteer efforts include: Helping other disadvantaged girls, fighting drugs, crime and violence, cleaning up the environment and working to end discrimination and poverty.

The program is named after Violet Richardson Ward, the first president of the first Soroptimist club. Richardson Ward was committed to creating opportunities for girls and young women through her affiliations with Soroptimist, the Girl Scout Council and the American Association of University Women.

Soroptimist clubs implement the program at the local level, where awards vary. Club-level recipients then become eligible for a $1,000 cash award, with a matching $1,000 cash award for the charitable organization of the recipient's choosing. The Soroptimist organization grants one finalist $2,500 award to the recipient's volunteer organization.

Three young women were honored at the Soroptimist of SCV breakfast as recipients of the Violet Richardson Award - for a variety of volunteer services they have performed.

The third place recipient was Madeline Rosenberger, a Junior at Valencia High School. The second place winner was Hannah Stanley, also a Junior at Valencia High School and the first place winner was Ashley Kramer, a senior at Saugus High School.

Soroptimist is an international organization for business and professional women who work to improve the lives of women and girls, in local communities and throughout the world. Nearly 95,000 Soroptimists in about 120 countries and territories contribute time and financial support to community-based and international projects that benefit women and girls.

The name, Soroptimist, means "best for women." Soroptimist members belong to local clubs, which determine the focus of volunteer work to their communities. Club projects range from renovating domestic violence shelters and providing mammograms to low-income women, to sponsoring self-esteem workshops for teenage girls.

Professional women - working, retired or beginning careers - interested in giving back to society are invited to join the Soroptimist of SCV club. Contact Sandi Naba, membership chairwoman at (661) 645-1893, or Terri Cadiente, president at (818) 489-4842 if you would like learn more about joining Soroptimist International of Santa Clarita Valley or


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