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Soroptimist report: Counting the ways the pillow project helps

Soroptimist International of Ashland participates in partnerships with many organizations that share its mission to improve the lives of women and girls locally and globally. Through these partnerships, SIA expands the impact of its work and is able to assist in a surprising number of projects that serve our community and beyond.

The oldest of these partnerships, established in 1949, is with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where the Soroptimist Pillow and Blanket concession works to benefit both organizations. The proceeds are shared 50/50 with OSF to help fund the FAIR Program, providing fellowships, assistantships, internships and residencies for the theater. The remaining money supports an extensive educational awards program for area girls, women and other programs, many in partnership with local and global organizations.

SIA sponsors the Soroptimist Strong Girls, Strong Women Program at partner Helman Elementary School. The “lunch buddy” mentor part of this program is enhanced by an informal partnership with members of the Ashland Branch of the American Association of University Women, some of whom serve as mentors to the girls.

The SIA Health and Environment Committee is a partner with the Ashland Senior Program in providing a foot care clinic for Senior Center clients ($1,000). The committee also supports women’s health services at Rogue Community Health’s Ashland Clinic ($1,000), and contributed to the Ashland School-based Health Center ($1,000), as well as to Planned Parenthood to fund STD testing ($500). The committee supported the Women’s Health Project of SART, the Sexual Assault Response Team, with an $800 grant. A donation of $600 to the Ashland Community Hospital Foundation School Nurse Program will fund a suicide prevention effort. And this committee, over the last two years, has contributed $1,000 to an effort to build a nature play area at North Mountain Park.

A major focus for SIA and of another significant committee is Human Rights and the Status of Women. This committee partners with several local groups that work to provide services to women who have experienced violence. Grants were made to the Sexual Assault Response Team ($500), and Dunn House, a shelter for women who are victims of domestic violence ($1,000). Through this committee SIA partners with the Ashland YMCA to provide scholarships for women, teens and girls experiencing trauma and hardship ($1,000).

The Human Rights and Status of Women Committee has an international connection to the Banderas Bay Women’s Shelter in Puerto Vallarta, México, to which it contributed $500. It also participates in Kiva Microfunds, a nonprofit organization that allows people to lend money to low-income entrepreneurs and students in over 80 countries. The club has invested $800, allowing 67 different loans to be made to women in 27 countries.

At the Ashland Chamber of Commerce July 4th parade, SIA honored its friendships and partnerships with a parade entry featuring Soroptimist Strong Girls from Helman Elementary School. It is a privilege to be in so many partnerships, building a strong community.

Should you be interested in membership in Soroptimist International of Ashland, contact President Colleen Chambers at siashland@soroptimist.net or at PO Box 544, Ashland, OR, 97520.

Soroptimist Strong Girls, Strong Women participants from Helman Elementary School march in the Ashland July 4 parade. Courtesy photo