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Lodi Soroptimist awards night honors women, girls

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Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:58 am, Tue Apr 17, 2012.

Soroptimist International of Lodi and Lodi Sunrise recently held an awards night honoring outstanding women and girls. Soroptimist International is a volunteer organization of professional and business women who contribute their time and financial support to community projects benefitting women and girls.

The Women's Opportunity Award, the major service project for Soroptimist, is presented to women who have primary financial responsibility for themselves and their families and are enrolled in a vocational/skills training program or undergraduate degree program. This year, the two women who received this award of $1,000 were Toni Marsh-Banks, who was recognized by SI Lodi, and Deidra Linder, by SI Lodi Sunrise.

Marsh-Banks put her education on hold to care for her mother, children, and nieces and nephews. When she returned to the workforce she learned that her past jobs, pharmacy technician and phlebotomist, needed current certification. She is pursuing certification for these fields and ultimately plans to obtain a Bachelor of Science in biology and earn her teaching credential.

Deidra Linder won the Women's Opportunity Award for SI Lodi Sunrise by demonstrating perseverance and selflessness in her life. She currently attends Delta College, pursuing a degree in social science. She will complete this degree in December. She wishes to work as an eligibility worker for the San Joaquin Human Services Department. She is the head of household for three children and one grandchild. She volunteers in guest relations with the Stockton Community Church.

Tia Gardner was awarded the SI Lodi Sunrise Inspiration Award due to her strength and determination to turn her life around. She currently attends Carrington College and will complete her medical assistant's certificate in June. Her ultimate goal is to become a registered nurse and work in an emergency room or trauma unit. She has maintained a 4.0 grade-point average and perfect attendance.

The Ruby Award — for Women Helping Women is meant to recognize women who do outstanding work either in their professional life or in volunteer service to improve the lives of other women and girls. This year SI Lodi had three recipients, Lisa Steele, from Strong as Steele Foundation; Karen West, of Salvation Army's Lodi Hope Harbor; and Cecilia Sierra, of APANTLI.

Cecilia Sierra was the grand prize winner. She works through APANTLI (which means "bridge" in the Aztec language) with young women in gangs to get out of that life and to reconnect with their families (especially their mothers). The APANTLI program has two sides: one for the young women and the other for the parents. Sierra is very involved in the lives of the students she takes in to her group. The parents and students end up feeling like Cecilia is a member of their family. Steve Gutierrez of APANTLI was presented with a check for $100 to help continue their good work.

Steele's organization was founded by her teenage daughter after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Steele lost her daughter to cancer, but continues the foundation to help others and honor her daughter's memory. Funds raised are used to educate at-risk groups about ovarian cancer. Karen West has worked for the Salvation Army for 15 years and now runs the Hope Harbor Shelter for homeless women and children. She helps to see that the women's physical, spiritual and mental health needs are met. She works with social service agencies as well.

Judy Kooyman was Soroptimist of Lodi Sunrise's award recipient. Kooyman has a passion for improving the lives of women and girls through raising awareness and prevention of domestic violence. She first volunteered in the children's services program at Dawn House, one of the refuges for abused women and children operated by the Women's Center of San Joaquin. Kooyman later joined and eventually chaired the center's Lodi Community Committee. The committee conducts fundraisers, educational events and community awareness activities concerning domestic violence. On an ongoing basis, Judy has spoken at various Women's Center of San Joaquin and community events. She has also participated in workshops for faith and clergy groups in Lodi and Stockton. She has helped raise awareness that domestic violence can affect women of all backgrounds, including those one might least suspect would be touched by the problem. She has likely saved lives in the process.

The Violet Richardson Award, named for the president of the first Soroptimist club, recognizes young women between the ages of 14 and 17 who make the community and world a better place through volunteer efforts. This year's recipient for SI Lodi was Madison Maldonado. SI Lodi Sunrise recognized Holly Fyffe and Liann Hoang. Maldonado was awarded $500; she was also chosen as runner-up for the region and will be awarded an additional $500. She is a Girl Scout Ambassador serving in our local community. She volunteered last summer at Camp Barnabas in Missouri, which is a camp for physically and mentally handicapped children. Her troop is fundraising to go to Costa Rica in summer 2012 to help a family on a farm. She also participated in helping build a home for needy families in Mexico.

When her best friend was diagnosed with a rare disease, Holly Fyffe decided to help raise money for her friend's single mother to pay medical expenses. Through her efforts she was able to earn nearly $15,000 to help the family.

Liann Hoang has been tutoring elementary school students for the past three years. This year she became a private tutor to five children. As their tutor, she tries to make learning fun.

For additional information about the clubs, contact Marcia Pothast at silodisunrise@soroptimist.net or Susan Brazil at silodi@soroptimist.net, or visit www.lodisunrisesoroptimist.org or www.lodisoroptimist.org.

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