By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
A re-energized, stronger emphasis on helping local women and girls awaits Rancho Bernardo Soroptimists in the coming year.
Co-presidents Nancy Brokaw and Chris Ward said their focus will be on re-inventing and re-energizing the club that strives to improve the lives of others in the community. In addition to projects, they will revamp the format for meetings, devoting time to committee work instead of listening to speakers. While still meeting from noon to 1:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday, their fourth Wednesday meeting will be held in the early evening at various restaurants with a social time included.
“I love the idea of women helping women and love giving back and being involved in something,” said Brokaw about why she joined the international organization nine years ago.
“I was newly retired and looking for a women’s club with hands-on (activities),” Ward said about becoming a Soroptimist seven years ago.
Each served as president before teaming up last year as co-presidents, a first for the 36-year-old Rancho Bernardo chapter. The partnership worked so well that Brokaw and Ward decided to give it a second try.
“It split the work load and gave us companionship,” Ward said. “Someone to work with ... to regularly trade ideas. It was not so isolated.”
“When one of us was out of town the other could step up,” Brokaw said. “We coordinated our schedules. Those duties usually fall to the vice president, but we did not have a vice president. This was stronger.”
Brokaw said there is a lot of work for the president, especially in the fall due to chapters selecting their Women’s Opportunity and Violet Richardson award candidates who have a chance to receive additional honors at higher levels of the organization.
The Women’s Opportunity Award goes to a single woman who is the head of her household, her family’s sole financial supporter and going back to school or receiving job training. The local chapter awards the recipient $500 plus a $500 scholarship.
“Finding one is a challenge,” Brokaw said, explaining members often reach out to local colleges to find a recipient.
The Violet Richardson Award is given to a 14- to 17-year-old girl to recognize her volunteerism in the community through a project she has undertaken. To be considered for the $500 chapter award, candidates must live within the Poway Unified School District boundaries.
There is no cost to apply for either award. For details and deadlines, call Brokaw at 951-760-4705.
After a one-year hiatus, the duo plans to bring back the Gold & Silver Ball in fall 2014. It is a major fundraiser that lets the chapter recognize community members’ philanthropic endeavors.
Since the RB chapter did not hold the ball this year, members conducted a “Spring along with us” mailing that raised more than $4,000 and co-hosted a tea with the Poway Soroptimists. Funds went toward the chapters’ joint venture of providing transitional housing in Poway to three families of women and children who escaped a bad domestic situation. For up to 18 months they are provided with housing while the woman receives educational or career training so she can support her family. The project costs around $7,000 per family, per year.
The chapters also support endeavors to end sex trafficking in the region through various methods that include educational outreach.
“People do not want to admit this goes on,” Brokaw said. “It’s about awareness, not fundraising.”
“We want to do local things that are needed to support women and girls,” Ward said. “That is our mission and what we believe in. ... Soroptimist International believes fundamentally that the future is through education. More education means more opportunities for women.”
The chapter will resume its meetings in August. Memberships are $135 per quarter in chapter dues (includes luncheons) plus $54 a year in national dues. A Distinguished Supporter membership — for those who want to participate in activities but not attend meetings — is $50 per year. For details, go to www.soroptimistrb.org.