If you spotted a street banner at the corner of Pioneer Street and Siskiyou Boulevard in June, you know Soroptimist International of Ashland (SIA) is celebrating 70 years of service to our community. We are a global volunteer organization with nearly 90,000 members in 183 countries and territories working to “improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment.”

“Catching the Wave of our History” was the theme for our 2016-2017 board installation and 70th anniversary celebration at Ashland Springs Hotel on June 13. There was an inspirational champagne toast by Kathy King, SI Klamath Falls member and 2016-2018 Soroptimist International of the Americas Federation Director-elect. Kathy was then joined by other SI Klamath Falls members in performing a delightful skit highlighting key events in our SIA 70-year history from our founding on June 12, 1946, to present.

Other guests included Soroptimist members from Medford and two past SIA Presidents. SI Ashland member Linda Anderson was awarded the Velna Weitzel (Charter President) Award for outstanding contributions during club year 2015-2016 by Pat Acklin, outgoing president.

Recent local service projects range from our annual academic and vocational scholarship program for women and girls, funding for the Ashland Community Hospital Women’s Health Initiative and their annual Holiday Lights for Life project, North Mountain Park Nature Center, Rogue Community Health, Senior Center Foot Clinic, and Jackson County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), to a Biannual East Main Street Road Clean-up event.

We staffed and funded our signature project, Soroptimist Strong Girls, Strong Women at Helman Elementary School (designed to develop leadership skills and confidence in math and science for K-5 girls) for the eighth year and supported publication of “Beauty After Breast Cancer,” written by Katelyn Carey, R.N., who works in the Ashland Community Hospital Emergency Department.

In addition, we supported a few international projects, including Kiva micro-business loans for women in lesser-developed countries, a domestic violence shelter in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and the Buiga Sunrise Education Centre in Uganda, which was founded by Ashland resident Nicole Van Seters. 

SIA raises funds for our programs and projects through a 67-year community partnership with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival initiated in 1949, whereby we manage and staff the annual Allen Elizabethan Theatre pillow and blanket rental booth from June to October. Revenues from this all-volunteer project are shared evenly between OSF and SIA to fund educational awards for theater professionals at the festival and scholarships for Southern Oregon University, Rogue Community College, Ashland and Phoenix high school students. 

In addition, a few times a year we work collaboratively with several of the other excellent Ashland service clubs, including the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Elks Lodge, Kiwanis, Lions, and Rotary.

As a dynamic and committed community organization of 53 members, Soroptimist International of Ashland is always happy to welcome new members. If you are interested in learning more about us, please check out our website at www.soroptimistrv.org or call President Robbin Pearce at 541-326-6597.

Joy Dobson Way is Public Awareness Committee Chairperson for Soroptimist International of Ashland. Soroptimist Report appears quarterly in the Tidings.