At age 65, this organization doesn’t have any intention of retiring.
Today, May 2, Soroptimist International of Sequim celebrates six-and-a-half decades of working to provide the community with everything from medical items through the Medical Loan Closet to an annual Garden Gala, from scholarships and opportunities for Sequim students through the Women In Networks program to community aid via partnerships with the Foster Parents Association, Rose House, Salvation Army and more.
Whew. Doesn’t sound like this group is slowing down.
“We’re a very active club; we tend to attract women who do want to get involved,” says 15-year member Kathy Purcell.
“We have fun and I think that’s one reason we’re so successful,” she says.
The Soroptimists host Dr. Monica Dixon, author of “Walking the Tightrope: 101 Ways to Manage Motherhood AND Your Sanity,” at a special event at Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church on Tuesday, May 8, a kind of unofficial celebration of the group’s longevity.
Dixon, an internationally published author and psychologist, talks about how to manage the multiple demands of parenthood.
The event, Purcell says, is “geared toward women but something with time management can be for any age or sex.”
Along with the presentation, Soroptimists will be available to talk about their group and how to get involved.
Purcell says Sequim Soroptimists generally are known for two things: the Medical Loan Closet and the Women In Networks, a joint effort between the group and Sequim High School.
The loan closet is a storage unit full of various pieces of medical equipment from walkers to wheelchairs. Anyone within the boundaries of the Sequim School District can borrow available equipment, generally for six months at a time, Purcell says.
Though some of the items are used, much of the equipment is new.
Purcell got involved with Soroptimists when in 1997 they joined with the high school to start Women In Networks, a program that helps build self-esteem for the girls and expose them to nontraditional career opportunities.
“I just was so amazed at what the organization was doing to help girls that I wanted to be a part of it,” Purcell says.
Group members often receive contact from former WIN students who are now pursuing various careers.
Some of the top WIN events Soroptimists hosts, Purcell says, feature recent SHS graduates who come back to tell their stories.
“When it’s someone close to their own age communicating to them, it often has a bigger impact,” Purcell says.
Each March, the Soroptimists put on an annual Gala Garden Show. The group’s top moneymaker of the year, the gala brought in $21,000 at this year’s event, Purcell says.
Most of that money is already “out the door,” she says, with $14,000 going to scholarships and another $5,000 to the Boys & Girls clubs.
“We as Soroptimists enjoy doing this event because it’s so fun,” Purcell says. “Seeing the excitement of people coming in, the sharing … it’s a good time.”
In addition, Sequim Soroptimists have a “VIP Luncheon” during the Irrigation Festival. They provide food and drink, shelter and a place for local and visiting royalty (family and visitors) to get ready for the grand parade.
One Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas, club members ring bells for the Salvation Army.
Sequim Soroptimists joined with Soroptimist International of Port Angeles and Soroptimist International of Port Angeles–Jet Set to help complete Rose House, a “safe and supportive transitional home for women and children escaping domestic violence,” in 1995, according to the club’s website.
The club also donates to the Kids Kloset each year and each November distributes domestic abuse prevention information and hotline numbers throughout the community.
Soroptimists distribute scholarships through various awards and honor a “Girl of the Month.”
With so much going on, it’s easy to be a little intimidated, Purcell says. But that’s the thing about this group: members know how time-consuming these activities can be, she says, so there’s little pressure to take on a lot.
“I think sometimes people are afraid to be in leadership roles, they feel like they can’t be there 100 percent,” Purcell says. “We don’t expect people to be there 100 percent.”
Committees include finance; communication/image; membership; awards/scholarships; programs (VIP Luncheon, Medical Loan Closet, bell-ringing, etc.); Women In Networks; and the Gala Garden Show.
“As you take over leadership positions … you discover things about yourself you didn’t know,” Purcell says.
Even before joining the group in 1997, Purcell started a newsletter for the club. She’s gone on to be president twice and has been in just about every role the club has.
“One of the things we try to do with Soroptimist International is tap into the strengths of individuals,” she says.
Members support one another, Purcell says, so even if one volunteers for a job but finds she cannot do it — as long as she asks for assistance — a club member will help.
“If you drop a pencil, someone will catch it before it hits the ground,” Purcell says.
Regular Sequim Soroptimist club meetings are the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, scheduled for 7 a.m. at Sequim Elks Lodge No. 2642, at 143 Port Williams Road.
Those interested are welcome to visit. Breakfast is served for $8 a plate.