A Picture of the Past – 1923-2023—100 Years of Community Service
(Thanks to originating author: Susann Geiskopf Hadler, SIS President 2001-2002)
The fabric that makes up the foundation of the City of Sacramento is comprised of many components. City fathers, civic leaders, philanthropic citizens, church groups, and volunteer organizations all contribute to the spirit and warmth of the community. Soroptimist International of Sacramento Inc. (SIS) was chartered in 1923 and was the fifth Soroptimist club to be formed from the 1921 Charter club in Oakland, CA, closely followed by clubs in London, Paris, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Today, this worldwide organization has over 66,000 members in 120 countries in the five International Federations within Africa, Great Britain & Ireland, Europe, The Americas and South East Asia Pacific. Soroptimist, a recognized authority on matters that women value most, uses its international voice and official status with the United Nations to advocate on behalf of women’s issues.
The word “Soroptimist” is coined from two Latin words: “soror” and “optima.” Soror signifies the bond of comrades and optima, the best, or to promote the highest good. The activities of SIS have fulfilled the ever-changing needs of our community throughout the decades. We always partake in fund- raising activities and contribute those funds to charities in need, particularly those that improve the lives of women and children. The following highlights the decades.
◆ 1920’s and 1930’s. Soroptimist International of Sacramento, Inc. (SIS) provided funding for milk stations for the needy, funded tuberculosis services, and contributed to the Red Cross. We also provided musical instruments for the Lincoln School Orchestra.
◆ 1940’s. With World War II looming, service projects turned to the Red Cross and the USO. War Bonds worth $30,500 were sold to Soroptimists. The sale of these bonds provided for the purchase of five “mosquito” airplanes and 37 mules to be used in Italy for the war effort. We also furnished a room at McClellan Air Force Base for the WAC’s to rest and recreate. Prior to our donation, there weren’t even chairs in the room—the war effort was not focused on the needs of those at home. This is but one example of how charitable organizations can have such an impact. During this decade, we also donated to the Fairhaven Home for unwed mothers, funded a psychiatrist for the Children’s Receiving Home, and purchased a station wagon for Easter Seals.
◆ 1950’s and 1960’s. SIS continued to grow as Sacramento prospered. We purchased a state-of-the-art resuscitator for the Firemen and a second station wagon for Easter Seals. We contributed funds to build Fairy Tale Town and were an early sponsor of the newly founded public television Channel 6. We also purchased television sets for the county hospital-currently the UC Davis Medical Center. SIS participated in the Camellia Festival by establishing a Camellia Cheer-Up Day, giving each resident of the local nursing homes a camellia flower. Additional musical instruments were donated to the Lincoln School Orchestra.
◆ 1970’s. Shirley Godfrey was president of SIS and ushered us into the 1970’s—she was to become a future Governor of the Sierra Nevada Region. Funding was given to heart research at Sutter Memorial Hospital. We also hosted foreign exchange students and awarded cash scholarships through Youth Citizenship Awards to local high school students. SIS had grown to be the largest Soroptimist club in the world with 150 members. Attorney Virginia Mueller was instrumental in “cutting the red tape”, and the City of Sacramento approved the building of the School House in Old Sacramento, funded by Soroptimist. As the times changed, so did the focus of our club. In the late 1970’s we funded the Aquarian Effort for drug rehabilitation efforts. We also shipped—through one of our members who had connections at McClellan Air Force Base—9,000 pounds of clothes to needy Native American Indians in New Mexico. We purchased a kidney machine for Sutter Memorial Hospital and Braille machines for the blind.
◆ 1980’s. This decade saw the continuation of the Camellia Hat Luncheon as a part of Sacramento’s Camellia Festival. One of our fundraising projects during this year was the Cadillac Dinner Dance. Georgia Presnell—President 1982—arranged for the purchase of a Cadillac to be given away at our fund- raising event held at the Holiday Inn Plaza Hotel. The John Skinner Orchestra played for our dancing pleasure. We donated funds to the Spacerium at the Sacramento Science Center, the Salvation Army Gymnasium for area youth, and to the newly founded W.E.A.V.E. (Women Escaping a Violent Environment) emergency housing center. Scholarship funds continued to be given to local students.
◆ 1990’s. The environment became a focal point. We had a “Green Team” that worked to clean up the American River Parkway once a month. We raised funds through our Saint Nicholas Faire and Auction. Service projects included funding the Family Support Program, Sierra Adoption Agency, Child and Family Institute at Mustard Seed School for Homeless Children, New Helvetia-River Oaks Multi-Cultural Multilingual Media Center, and furnishing a classroom at the Sacramento Youth Hostel.
◆ 2000’s. In the 2000’s we continued funding many of the above-mentioned service activities, but we also underwrote the Student Buddy program at Sutter Middle School by providing school supplies, Thanksgiving baskets and mentoring to students. We also donated to the Thomas Raley branch of the Boys and Girls Club to establish the Arts and Crafts Room at the new branch. Over 2,000 hours of volunteer service was provided to the branch by our very busy members. We contributed funds to remove land-mines in Eastern Europe countries, and we underwrote 20 live performances of the Children’s Fantasy Theatre at underfunded elementary schools in the area. In 2005, 2006 and 2008 our primary fund-raising events were the Polo Extravaganza. These events raised over $145,000 for Soroptimist projects.
Our service efforts were aimed at foster youth. We supported the Independent Living Program at Sacramento County for emancipating foster youth teenagers; the Therapeutic Recreational Program for Foster Youth at the Sacramento Children’s Home; and the Mentoring Program for Foster Youth at Wonder Inc.
◆ 2010’s. In this decade we emphasized growing our membership and attracting younger women. We joined the 21st century by establishing a presence in social media with Facebook and Twitter. We established a Young Professionals Sub-Committee to encourage younger member participation. Club members designed and taught a series of classes on “Money Matters—Making Your Money Go Further and Last Longer” to women and teens overcoming obstacles such as violence and poverty. We received a Soroptimist International of Americas (S.I.A.) grant to establish this program, and expanded the program as the demand grew. We have served hundreds of young women and teens with the series of four classes. We also continued our support for foster youth in our community by supporting the Independent Living Program. In addition, we donated to Single Moms Strong for improvements at their Encouragement Center, the Boys and Girls Club for their Summer Program for teen-aged girls, and to Reading Partners for their summer reading program at local elementary schools. We expanded our fund-raising efforts by selling See’s Candy during the holiday season. Other new fund-raising efforts included the Urban Edible Garden Tours, and Crab Fiesta dinner and auction.
This decade also saw the adoption of Soroptimist International of the Americas’ (SIA) new Dream programs: Dream It, Be It (DIBI): Character Building and Career Exploration Support for High School Girls and Women; Live your Dream: Cash Grants for two years for Education and Training awards for women who are heads of household; and Live Your Dream.org to empower women and girls. SIA’s updated mission centered the club’s programs and giving to provide women and girls with access to the education and training they need to achieve economic empowerment. In addition, updated SIA logos and the SI emblem gave a new look for branded materials and the membership pin.
◆ 2020’s. As this decade dawned, the club continues to align itself with SIA’s strategic priorities. The well-established Money Matters, community grants, scholarships and Dream programs have flourished. The enjoyable See’s Candy and Crab Fiesta fundraisers are a profitable foundation for our annual giving to Dream programs, community grants and scholarships. Endowments from generous past members (including the Blanche Edgar Girot* and Shirley E. Godfrey* endowment funds, and the Chin-Fong scholarship fund) are a source of scholarship and grant funding.
Many thanks to our members, sponsors, friends, and family for continued SIS support!
*Blanche Edgar Girot — Over the years, many prominent members of the community have been a part of SIS. However, one very noteworthy citizen was Blanche Edgar Girot. Blanche was president of SIS in 1930, but her contributions to our club touch SIS and the Community to this day. She chartered 104 clubs throughout the world. Her motto was “Attendance is the price of membership and service is the means of enjoyment of that membership.” She gifted some land to SIS in 1965 and the proceeds of the sale have allowed SIS to fund the construction and current upkeep of the School House in Old Sacramento, the Pirate Ship in Fairy Tale Town, and the Arts and Crafts Room at the Thomas P. Raley Boys and Girls Club to name a few.
*Shirley E. Godfrey — September 7, 1920 — April 25, 2002. Shirley was the absolute model of a true and devoted Soroptimist. She began as a “Venture Girl” about 1946 and became a Soroptimist in 1957 when she joined SIS. She became president of SIS in 1969. Shirley retired from the Sacramento County Superior Court as court clerk to set aside enough time in her life to become the second Governor of the newly-formed Sierra Nevada Region from 1978 to 1980. Prior to that time, she served as Secretary on the Board of Directors for the Southwestern Region. Shirley left a large portion of her estate to SIS when she passed away in 2002. The funds are used variously to pay for “concrete” projects and scholarships for young and re-entry women.
Soroptimist is a global volunteer organization that provides women and girls with access to the education and training they need to achieve economic empowerment.