Taking a stand

In April 1948, Soroptimist International of Camas-Washougal was chartered.

Our first president was Stella Short. Martha Ford, a teacher and charter member, became our strongest mentor and gave generously to our club. This was during the war years and money was hard to come by. Martha gave the club $8,000.

This money was used to help keep solvent and pay the mandates of the SIA and provide money for scholarships to young people. Her donation had only one string attached, and that was to keep the bulk of the money in the Camas and Washougal areas, giving young women and others a chance to get an education to better themselves.

With careful management, prudent giving and a strong desire to raise money and give back to the community while keeping our membership strong, we have managed to make that seed money grow.

In the beginning, we purchased CDs and had savings accounts in local banks. With interest and additional bequests and memorials, our monies grew. Over the years, we had donations from members and families that believed in the core value of Soroptimist.

When Martha Ford passed at the age of 104 in 1995, she left a large portion of her estate to Soroptimist International of Camas-Washougal. With this money we were able to establish a fund that has enabled us to use the interest, keeping the principle so that it would serve us into perpetuity. We have successfully given approximately $5,000 annually to deserving youth and women of our community from this fund.

With our well known estate sales, dinners and auctions, and other fundraising events, we have given money and time to help keep our mission alive and well.

Over the years, we have given $360,000 to our communities. In addition, $200,000 has been given for our disaster funds within the United States, like Hurricane Katrina.

There are also international causes including providing clean water in villages in some African nations and Mexico; removal of land mines in Vietnam and other areas of conflict; providing limbs for vets, as well as victims, often children and women that have been forced to search for the land mines just to survive, sending solar cookers to Darfur, and preventing obstetric fistula, a custom in almost 40 countries that both disfigures and demoralizes women and young girls.

The list goes on and the money continues to find a place where it can make a difference in the lives of women and girls and their families.

In my 40 years as a member of Soroptimist, I have served in just about every position on the board and many committees. The one thing that Soroptimist members have in common is the desire to help those that need a hand up, not just a hand out. Our mission statement has always been about helping women and girls. Some changes have been made, but the core value has remained the same.

In October, the Soroptimists had a beautiful tea and fashion show at Lacamas Lake Lodge. “Taking a Stand” has become our latest focal point in helping women and girls.

The knowledge that our young people are being trafficked and forced into sexual slavery has given us a new and energized focus on our mission. We have read the headlines and heard the news and we can no longer pretend that this doesn’t happen in our town.

One of our own was taken this past July. Fortunately, Anji Dean has been found and is getting the help she needs. Anji’s mother, Linda Jorgensen, spoke to us that afternoon, and the reality that it does happen here hit home for those attending.

For too many years, we did not focus on this problem. We tended to blame the victim as though they had made a choice, not seeing the reality of what had happened to them.

With social media and the internet, Pandora’s Box has been opened. Much good has come with this new and exciting technology, but there is a dark side. We as parents and grandparents have lost the ability to protect our kids from the predators that are found online. There are more than 100 sites that are being used to lure our young kids into lives that they never even knew existed.

This new knowledge has forced us to take a look at our mission. We have always been advocates for the prevention of domestic violence, in the home, in schools and the workplace. Now is the time to do more. The rate of child abductions for the express purpose of exploitation has reached epidemic levels.

Soroptimist International of Camas-Washougal is hoping to be the catalyst that not only brings awareness, but help in finding the solution. A special “Meet and Potatoes” meeting will be held Tuesday, Jan. 20, at 6 p.m., at Zion Lutheran Church in Camas. This is an opportunity to get to know our members, and learn more about us. Soroptimists also meet every month on the first Friday at 7 a.m., and the third Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Please join us in the fight, “Taking a Stand” is more than just a new phrase.

For more information, call Verla Jonason at 835-5588.