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Soroptimists held annual awards night

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Posted: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 12:00 am

Soroptimist International of Lodi and Lodi Sunrise recently had their awards night at Temple Baptist Church. Awards were presented to outstanding women and girls.

Soroptimist International is an international volunteer organization of professional and business women who volunteer their time toward community projects benefiting women. Soroptimist’s mission is to improve the lives of women and girls in local communities and around the world.

The Women’s Opportunity Award is the major service project for Soroptimist International of the Americas. The program name reflects the nature of the program: giving women the “opportunity” to enter or re-enter the workforce with the education and skills necessary to attain a higher level of employment. Eligible women are the primary income earner for their families, are attending or have been accepted into a vocational/skills training program or undergraduate degree program to upgrade their employment status. 

This year SI Lodi and SI Lodi-Sunrise awarded $1,000 to these women.Vannita Johnson received the award from SI Lodi. Johnson is a single parent of two daughters, 13 and 16 years old. She is attending Heald College and is in the medical assistant program. She attended San Joaquin Delta College, and received an Associate of Arts degree in liberal arts and science. She will receive an Associate of Science degree from Heald. She plans to work a few years and continue on to earn a Bachelor of Science. In 1997, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She has worked very hard to recuperate and continue her own education while home schooling her daughters.

SI Lodi Sunrise presented their Women's Opportunity Award to Ebony Fortier. She is attending San Joaquin Delta College, taking courses to achieve a licensed vocational nursing credential. Upon completion, her goal is to continue her studies and earn a Bachelor of Science Degree in nursing and specialize in nursing in education. Her ultimate goal is to become a school nurse. Domestic problems, homelessness and unemployment brought her to Lodi House. During that time she worked, saved and ultimately got a place of her own. She has reunited with her family and is working to provide a strong family foundation for her daughters. 

The Ruby Award, for Women Helping Women, acknowledges women who are working to improve the lives of women and girls through their personal or professional activities. Their efforts help to promote the issues that are important to the Soroptimist organization.

Elizabeth Kass, M.D. was presented the Ruby Award for women helping women by SI Lodi Sunrise for her work with and for women. As a dermatologist, Kass has made numerous presentations educating women on prevention of skin cancer and other skin diseases. She oversees the Women’s Health Taskforce and the Domestic Violence Prevention Committee for Kaiser Permanente in the Central Valley and serves as a physician lead for an annual health fair for uninsured held at Kaiser Stockton and Kaiser Modesto. In her medical practice, she cares for women with diseases of the skin, hair and nails. She serves as a clinical instructor and has trained multiple women physicians from the San Joaquin County Internal Medicine and Family Practice residency programs.

Joelle Gomez, executive director of the Women’s Center of San Joaquin County, was chosen as the 2010 recipient of the Ruby Award from SI Lodi. Gomez has represented the Women’s Center of San Joaquin County within the corporate, government and non-profit sectors. For the past 17 years, her commitment as a leader and mentor in the community for students, young professionals and especially the clients and staff is one of passion and devotion. Her leadership skills, business finesse and community relations abilities have elevated the Women’s Center to one of the region’s premiere non-profit organizations.

At the end of the work day, Gomez’s commitment to the development of women does not end.  She returns to her greatest challenge — raising her two daughters. The girls represent her greatest accomplishment. 

The Violet Richardson Award recognizes a young woman between the ages of 14 to 17 who does outstanding volunteer work in her community. These young women each receive an award of $500 plus $100 donation to their charity of choice. 

Nichole Rosales was awarded the Violet Richardson Award by SI Lodi Sunrise. Rosales has been active in multiple community service projects during high school. She has logged close to 800 total hours volunteering for such organizations as the National Cancer Society and various bands and orchestras, reflecting her love of music. Her primary focus during her senior year at Lodi High has been the Lodi House Women’s Shelter. In fact, her senior project was a fundraiser for Lodi House which collected not only cash donations but furniture, blankets, clothing and canned food. Rosales epitomizes the VRA recipient: a young woman who is caring, compassionate, creative and, most of all, committed to making the world a better place.

SI Lodi has selected Mykenzie Mattheis as their Violet Richardson Award recipient. Mattheis has volunteered on the Lodi Youth Commission. She planned a fundraising dance that helped fund a trip to Costa Rica through the Global Routes project. During her trip to Costa Rica the group built a kitchen, supplied the kitchen with cooking utensils and built a multi-purpose room. The community will be able to rent out the building which will help their community for years to come. Proceeds from the dance were also donated to Salvation Army and Lodi House.

SI Lodi presented four students with the “Live Your Dream” Award. These scholarship awards in the amount of $500 each were awarded to Michelle Poteet, of Tokay High, Selene Yepez and Zyania Lizarraga, of Lodi High, and Nhu-Ahn Le, of Bear Creek High. All of these girls had good academic standing and high aspirations. Their letters of recommendation were compelling and their personal statements showed determination. SI Lodi is proud to be able to offer support to these young ladies as they start out for college. Poteet plans to attend Oregon Coast Culinary Institute and Southwestern Oregon Community College. She will be majoring in baking and pastry.

Selene plans to attend University of California, Santa Barbara as a pre-med major and plans to become a pediatric oncologist and help children with cancer.

Lizarraga plans to attend Columbia University and major in psychology, then continue on to New York University medical school. She states that she desires to contribute to society and be a role model by encouraging other Hispanic women to become successful.

Le hopes to be able to attend the University of the Pacific with financial support and major in pre-pharmacy. 

Mickey Moore Memorial Award

Moore was a devoted member to SI Lodi for over 30 years. After she passed away in January, the club received just over $1,000 in donations in her memory from family and friends, so we decided to give a one-time monetary award to a deserving female student. Our club is also dedicated to help students in the foster care system, and we selected a student that had been in foster care in her teens. The recipient of this award is Tiara Shands, a student at Tokay High.  She was in foster care from the age of 16 to 18. Shands plans to major in pre-law and become a child advocacy judge. According to one of her recommendation letters, Shands feels that it is necessary to keep children the top priority when they are removed from their homes and placed in foster care, and believes that the best way to do that is to be a child advocacy judge. She has pushed past her setbacks and is looking forward to jumping over the rainbow. We were very happy to have members of Moore's family and close friends and neighbors present for the award ceremony.

Meghan M. Mullen, staff assistant from the office of Congressman Jerry McNerney, presented proclamations from  McNerney to each of the Women’s Opportunity, Violet Richardson and Ruby Award recipients. 

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