The service club Soroptimist International of Olympia, otherwise known as Olympia Soroptimist, will celebrate 75 years of service since the club was formed in 1941.
The party is set for Oct. 15 at Pellegrino’s Event Center in Tumwater.
The Soroptimists got their start in 1921, partly because women were denied entry to other service clubs. After the first club formed, other clubs spread up the West Coast and then spread throughout the country and abroad. The Olympia club is one of 86 in its region.
Despite the years of service, including significant donations to women in need over the years, the Olympia club numbers only 32 members.
Past president Karen Hall said all service clubs struggle with membership levels, particularly when it comes to recruiting young people. And some might be turned off by membership dues or the cost of meals at the club’s meetings, she said.
The club markets itself through word-of-mouth information as well as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It recently recruited a woman in her 20s who works for the Olympia Police Department, she said.
In addition to helping women and girls and serving other community needs, new members also get to meet some interesting existing members, Hall said. For example:
▪ Judy Miller: Miller lived in Saudi Arabia for seven years while her husband worked in computers for an oil company. A longtime pharmacist, Miller ultimately completed her pharmacy career in the Olympia area.
▪ Marti Ensign: Also known as the Rev. Marti Ensign, she spent a decade with her husband, Leonard, a doctor, in the central African countries of Rwanda and Burundi, working at local hospitals. She has traveled to the continent 35 times, she said. In addition to English, she speaks French, Swahili and the languages spoken in Rwanda and Burundi. Marti fled Rwanda during the genocide that swept the country in the early 1990s, vowing that she would never return. Eight weeks later she was back on a plane to help translate in the area.
Marti became involved with the Soroptomists in Seattle after she was asked to speak about her experiences in Africa.
Miller joined the club because a neighbor asked her to, while Hall, after working with Girl Scouts for a dozen years, was looking for something new.
“This fills that service piece,” she said.
Soroptimist International of Olympia
Type of organization: Service club that works to improve the lives of women and girls.
History: The first Soroptimist club was formed in 1921 in California. The Olympia club was formed in 1941 and will celebrate 75 years of service next month.
Local members: 32.
Online: Facebook or go to soroptimistsolympia.org.
Meetings: Olympia Soroptimists meet twice a month. Business meetings are noon-1 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month at Pellegrino’s in Tumwater, while program meetings start at 5:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of the month at Mercato in Olympia. Program meetings typically include a guest speaker.
Upcoming speakers: The owner of Yoga Loft is set to speak on Oct. 25, while a representative from the state Department of Social and Health Services is set to speak in November about “family assessment response.”
Donations: The group awards $11,000 to $15,000 a year in scholarships and to community programs. The club also announced last week that it will work with the YWCA to support Microsoft Office and QuickBooks certifications for up to 30 participants.
Soroptimist: Loosely translated from Latin, it means “best for women.”
Fundraising: Past fundraisers include antique and fashion shows. One of the newest is Lunafest, a film festival by, for and about women. It benefits both Olympia Soroptimists and a breast cancer fund. The film festival is set for Nov. 12 at the Tumwater campus of South Puget Sound Community College.