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Ashland Soroptimists celebrate 75 years of service

Left: Soroptimist President Carolyn Johnson and Ashland Parks and Recreation Commssioner Patty Adams unveil a new park sign June 22, 1993. Right: Soroptimist President Kathy Mooney, member Marilyn Bailey and Ashland Parks and Recreation Event Coordinator Sulaiman Shelton plant forsythia at Garden Way Park June 12, 2021.

Ashland Mayor Julie Akins proclaimed two dates Tuesday honoring Soroptimist International of Ashland and the club’s 75-year anniversary.

At the July 6 City Council meeting, Akins declared June 12 as Soroptimist International of Ashland Day, and named Oct. 3 as Soroptimist International Day.

The organization empowers women to strengthen their economic security through access to education and has served local women and girls by annually distributing scholarships, grants and sponsorships, offering lunch buddy mentors at Helman Elementary School and supporting women’s health with grants to health care organizations, Akins said in the proclamation.

The club celebrated three generations of community involvement this year with a ceremony June 12 at Garden Way Park, the same day Margie Clark and other founding members established Soroptimist International of Ashland in 1946.

The park was once part of land owned by Margie and J.P. Clark, according to Soroptimist member Pat Acklin, who compiled a history of the park from Soroptimist historical records, scrapbooks of news articles, photos and county records.

Six years after the club’s formation, Margie Clark announced she and J.P. would donate two acres of land to the city for Soroptimist Park, later named Garden Way Park.

In collaboration with Ashland Parks and Recreation, the group initiated plans for a “past presidents” garden, installed a picnic area, playground and new signage, and began the tradition of an annual planting party around the park sign, according to Acklin.

In 1961, then-president Irene Hollenbeck noted 14 trees were purchased for $94 as a “living memorial” for the project. In 1973, a drinking fountain and plaque were installed honoring Margie Clark.

In 1981, a gazebo was constructed and dedicated to Soroptimists as part of a 10-year park upgrade plan — described in the Daily Tidings as “another great asset” to the neighborhood park and “an outstanding example of the unselfish dedication of an organization to the betterment of the community.”

In June of 1993, local officials turned out to celebrate the unveiling of a new park sign, which was again replaced in 2014 in an effort to upgrade signage across the city’s park system.

On June 12, city officials and Soroptimists gathered to honor 75 years of the club’s dedication to Ashland’s women, girls and community vitality by planting two miniature forsythia bushes on either side of the park sign.

Later this fall, the club aims to erect a monument marking 75 years of service and the 100th anniversary of Soroptimist International, founded Oct. 3, 1921.

“It has been a privilege working with these very talented [people] — so many with the spirit of giving and helping others,” said past president Jan Holland. “It’s that helping spirit that brings us all together.”

Ashland Soroptimist projects include the Strong Girls Strong Women project in cooperation with Helman Elementary School, pillow booth at the Allen Elizabethan Theatre and the Soroptimist Bus, which transported seniors to their appointments for more than 20 years, Holland said.

Kathy Mooney took over as president for 2021-2022 in July.

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497.