Live your dream! For many people, that may mean lying on a sunny beach or exploring exciting foreign lands. For far too many women around the world, it means surviving day to day and being able to feed, clothe and shelter their families. It is for these women that Soroptimist International created the Live Your Dream Awards.

These awards assist women who provide the primary source of financial support for their families by giving them the resources to improve their education, skills and employment prospects. Since 1972, SI clubs of the Americas have awarded about $30 million, and annually clubs award $2.7 million, to 1,300 women who have faced and overcome such obstacles as poverty, domestic violence, sex trafficking, drug or alcohol addiction.

This year Soroptimist International of Ashland will award three local women a Live Your Dream Award. Previously we awarded a $2,000 and a $1,000 award annually, but this year we were honored to receive a generous $500 gift from the Crown Jewel. Owners Anne and Jason Robison wanted “to be there to help provide support & encouragement” to a local woman who has “the courage & determination to turn (her) life around.”

Soroptimist International of Ashland matched their donation to create our third award. Ashland Soroptimists work with the other four clubs in the Rogue Valley to choose 11 local winners, one of whom will go on to compete for a further $3,000 or $5,000 award, and region-level award recipients then become eligible to receive one of three SI of the Americas $10,000 awards.

We are thrilled to announce that this year Kathrine Mahoney is the Ashland club’s first-place winner, receiving $2,000. She is attending OHSU School of Nursing and plans to focus on women’s healthcare. She is a mother of two and also volunteers as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate). Our club has two second-place winners, each receiving $1,000. Isabel Fernandez is attending classes at RCC and has an interest in law enforcement and family court. Michelle Mickey is attending RCC with plans to ultimately study psychology at SOU and help others with mental health issues. Congratulations to all of them!

“Soroptimist” means Best for Women, and Soroptimists are volunteers dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls locally and throughout the world. We know that education is the key to achieving women’s social and economic empowerment, so we invest as much as we can in education grants. Soroptimist International of Ashland awards grants to outstanding girls graduating from Ashland High School and Phoenix High School who will be going on to further their training or education, as well as to an outstanding woman athlete at SOU. However, LYD is our primary tool to empower women to improve their lives through education.

Soroptimist International of Ashland funds our awards by renting pillows and blankets to theater-goers at Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Elizabethan Theatre each June through October. The club has partnered in this project with OSF since 1949 and are proud to give half of the net proceeds to OSF and use the other half to fund Live Your Dream and our other scholarships and awards. We would be pleased to rent our pillows and blankets to you this summer, for your comfort and so Soroptimist International of Ashland can continue to help women and girls pursue an education and live their dreams.

—Janie Burcart is Ashland Soroptimist president and Laurie Schaaf is Soroptimist co-chair of the economic and social development committee. Soroptimist Report appears quarterly in the Tidings. For more, go to www.soroptimistrv.org/siashland.html, call Burcart at 541-910-0235 or email siashland@soroptimist.net.