"We network, we fund-raise to make a difference," says Kay Stewart, a St. James resident and president of the local chapter of the international club. "Many women are busy with their career, work, family and other commitments. They might be giving back to their community in other ways, but we also invite them to consider joining us."
The local group has 16 members, but is looking for more. They meet twice a month: once for a business meeting at a member's home, and once for a dinner and educational speaker presentation at the Norwood Hotel.
Among the local group's projects of note are the creation and distribution of comfort pillows for CancerCare Manitoba. The pillows are distributed to breast cancer patients throughout Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario. They are also involved in what's called the Soroptimist Purple Card campaign against family violence, printing and distributing purple cards with local numbers to provide assistance to women in crisis.
Some of the group's other efforts include: Women's Opportunity Awards, to support mothers going back to university or college to better their lives; and the Violet Richardson Award (named after a California member and formerly known as the Youth Citizenship Award), which provides cash to a female high school volunteer to split with her cause.
The group also supports a variety of local women's organizations through donations. Their fund-raisers include book launches and a Christmas dinner and auction.
The group introduced its own awards program this year, called Winnipeg's Making a Difference for Women Recognition Awards. Winners of the inaugural award were Muriel Smith, recognized for her work with women through United Nations-related groups, and Roz Prober, who was saluted for her efforts with Beyond Borders, an international group that battles the sexual exploitation of children. Soroptimists International of Winnipeg will make a donation to each cause on behalf of each of the award recipients.
Soroptimist International was founded in 1921 in California, and was modelled after the Rotary Club which, at the time, did not have female members, says Stewart. It has four worldwide federations: Americas, Great Britain and Ireland, Southwest Pacific, and Europe. Regional and national conferences are held each year, and an international conference is held every four years.
Soroptomist takes its name from Soror, Latin for sister, and Optima, meaning the best. It's a group that's working towards the best for women.
For further information on Soroptimist International of Winnipeg, call Stewart at 837-1290.