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Pahrump Valley Soroptimists observe 15th anniversary

Anyone wanting to know “what’s best for women,” should ask any Pahrump Valley Soroptimist Club member, and they will utter the word “Soroptimist,” which is defined as “Best for Women.”

As such, the local organization is observing its 15th anniversary in the Pahrump Valley, as it was officially formed on March 5, 2006.

It should also be noted that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the international organization, where in 1921, a group of women joined an organization in Oakland, California, called Soroptimist, to work toward strengthening their community, as at the time, women weren’t permitted to join the all-male community groups.

Since then, the organization has grown to about 1,300 clubs in 21 countries and territories throughout the world, according to charter member Tonya Brum.

Well-deserved recognition

This month, the local organization will observe their anniversary by awarding 15-year membership pins to four charter members, including Willi Baer, members Linda Fitzgibbons, Joyce Schnelzer, and Stacy Smith.

Twenty-year anniversary pins will be awarded to Tonya Brum and Jody Padfield.

“A lot has changed for women and girls in 100 years, but the road to equality continues to be difficult,” Brum stated in a press release. “Women and girls face tremendous challenges, solely because of their gender, and they suffer disproportionately from poverty, racism, sexual assault, domestic violence, and sex trafficking. With its long history of working with women and girls, Soroptimist knows that helping them get education, skills and training is a powerful strategy toward achieving economic empowerment.”

Living the Dream

Brum also spoke about the various programs the Soroptimist Club offers.

“The organization’s Dream programs provide the access to that necessary education and training,” Brum noted. “The Live Your Dream awards provide cash grants for women who are pursuing a degree or enrolled in a technical training program. The women who provide the primary financial support for their families, may use the funds in any way that helps them achieve their educational goals, whether it’s to pay for tuition or rent or child care.”

Additionally, Brum said that each year approximately 1,800 women receive almost $3 million in cash grants.

“Since 1972, the program has helped more than 33,000 women and their families gain financial independence,” she said. “The Soroptimist’s ‘Dream It, Be It’ program prepares girls for future career success by providing them with guidance, training and resources to make good decisions. More than 73,000 girls have gone through the program since it launched in 2015.”

Local numbers

During its 15 years in existence, the organization has improved the lives of women and girls in Pahrump by distributing approximately $10,000 in Soroptimist Live Your Dream awards to local women to help them get the education and training they need to improve their employment prospects and economic standing.

“Our club is proud to participate in the Dream programs, as well as other community projects, including working with local domestic violence and sex trafficking organizations, and providing assistance to women in transitional housing,” said Willi Baer, Pahrump club president. “We have held an annual Soroptimist ‘Dream It, Be It’ event that has helped put 125 local high school girls on the path toward achieving their career goals.”

Raising awareness

Additionally, the Pahrump Valley Soroptimist Club sponsored an annual art contest for local high school students to help encourage community awareness of human trafficking.

“We utilized social media to broadcast our message to share awareness of and action against human trafficking,” Baer said. “Our name means “best for women” and that is what we strive to be, women at our best, investing in other women and girls to do their best.”

Back in January, the Pahrump Soroptimist Club recognized the trepidation of human trafficking and the importance of bringing attention to the crime by wearing blue and telling the stories of human trafficking around the world.

“Human trafficking is recruiting and exploiting the labor or services of another person through force, fraud, or coercion,” Brum noted in the release. “This problem goes beyond nationality, gender, race, class, schooling, culture, or age. Victims are U.S. citizens or immigrants, adults or children, male or female. Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry. Trafficking generates billions of dollars in annual revenue for criminals, and trafficking affects everyone’s community.”

Expressing support

Symbolic gestures was another topic that Brum spoke of.

“Symbols have meanings,” she said. “When you see a yellow ribbon, you know that person expresses support for military personnel. A pink ribbon tells someone you are an advocate for breast cancer research. Even if unrecognized, symbols start conversations. Wearing a ‘Live Free’ bracelet lets the world know that human trafficking cannot be tolerated. It isn’t pretty, and it isn’t convenient, but neither are shackles, beatings, sweat factories, farm gangs or dozens of other chains or conditions suffered by, or used to control human beings.”

For more information about Soroptimist International of Pahrump Valley contact President Willi Baer at 702-592-5276 or Membership Chair Karen Holley, at 702-274-6774.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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