100 YEARS OF SOROPTIMIST INTERNATIONAL
57 YEARS OF SOROPTIMIST INTERNATIONAL OF PALM DESERT
CELEBRATING 100 SIPD PROJECTS!
- Our club was chartered on November 16, 1963 with 23 members.
- The third club President, Marie Lawrie-Smith, was the first woman to be named manager of a United California Bank (now Bank of the West). As such, she issued each member a Master Card, making them among the first women to have the power of “Charge it.”
- The club newsletter started out as “Desert Dimensions” in 1963. Now known as “PLAN AHEAD” the tradition continues.
- Early in the history of the club, we were among the first Coachella Valley service groups to support the Foundation for the Retarded (started in 1959), now know by the kinder phrase “Desert Arc.”
- In 1970, we secured our first Friendship Link club in Nelson, New Zealand. Soroptimists around the world are encouraged to reach out to clubs in the cities they visit around the USA and the world. In this way, friendship is extended and lifelong friends made. Our current Friendship Link club is SI Joensuu, Finland.
- In the 70s, our club sold See’s candy to raise funds to support our projects. Club members literally sold thousands of pounds of candy at $3 a pound. Unfortunately, once See’s opened a store front in the Palm Desert Mall, company policy prohibited members from selling their product out of small business store fronts. More recently, the club has partnered with Brandini Toffee to sell candy out of our homes and via the internet. They have become a great partner.
- On June 5, 1971, our club and the Parks Foundation of the City of Palm Desert, supported by Frank Sinatra, dedicated the Christina Sinatra Teen Center. The goal was to provide desert teens with a safe gathering place. The center was eventually taken over by the YMCA of the desert.
- In 1977, the club started hosting an annual Mr. Palm Desert contest as their major fundraiser.
- The club supported People to People by providing financial assistance to one of the club member’s sons. This International Travel Program, established by one time desert resident President Dwight D. Eisenhower, continues to this day.
- The club provided years of financial support to Guide Dogs of the Desert.
- The most important project that our club still supports every year is the Soroptimist House of Hope. In 1980, the 9 valley Soroptimist clubs got together to support an idea proposed by Desert Hot Springs member Ann Hardy. Ann and her husband had started an organization for teens to get off drugs called Turn-Off. Ann proposed that the clubs start a home for recovery for women only. Along with Soroptimist leaders Dot Reed and Brigette Page, in 1982, the house was officially dedicated. https://www.recoveryhouseofhope.org/
- The SHOH now also has a recovery house since 1989 in Banning. Ultimately, a third house opened in Desert Hot Springs, but there was insufficient funding to keep it afloat and it was shut down. Due to the overall high degree of success, the SHOH has become known in Riverside County and Statewide for the great work we do there and their excellence is acknowledged within all State agencies. Both houses are fully funded and have maintained continuous operation since opening the doors. Soroptimist has played an active role in SHOH since opening and SIPD has always been represented on the board of directors, and with other positions within the organization as well; all positions have been volunteer and non-salaried. To this day, SIPD is active in giving support funds and doing hands-on visitations and activities.
- In the 1980s, another need became apparent to the members. There was no shelter for women in abusive relationships. After years of work spearheaded by Margaret Henderson and our club and many great partners, Shelter from the Storm opened its doors with a 60-bed facility in the valley in 1993. Together with all the Valley Soroptimist clubs, $200,000 was pledged and raised for the construction.
- In 1983, the club supported the passage of Proposition A in Palm Desert. This was a fire protection effort. To raise funds, the club hosted a roast of one of our members, City Clerk Sheila Gilligan. The club also celebrated its 20th Anniversary of service.
- Beginning in 1984, the club sponsored health screenings for children and provided finger printing services.
- On March 15, 1985 we sponsored a Health Fair at Palm Desert Town Center which drew 1300 people for free screenings – blood pressure, anemia testing, vision and glaucoma, hearing, foot care, height and weight counseling.
- The Palm Desert club sponsored the formation of many other service clubs in and around the valley including SI Palm Desert Sunrise, SI Rancho Mirage, SI Coachella Valley and SI Idyllwild. On Margaret Henderson’s birthday (7/7/84) the club chartered SI La Quinta. This spread the word of women helping women around the desert and mountains.
- The club is part of Golden West Region which stretches from Riverside to El Paso, Texas. The Region leadership is led by an elected Governor. In 1997 SIPD member Margaret Henderson was elected Governor. Her theme for the two-year period was sunflowers.
- In 1994, SIPD began hosting an annual luncheon called “Take the Big C out of Cancer” with proceeds going to Desert Cancer Foundation, whose President was Sheila Gilligan. This event continued for several years.
- In 1994, the club pledged to raise $50,000 for the Multi-Agency Library over a five-year period. 10K was raised in 1995 with the goal of naming rights to the Children’s Soroptimist Story Room. There is a plaque in the lobby of the current Library on Fred Waring commemorating the donation.
- In 1996, we held a fundraising luncheon for the retirement of City Manager Bruce Altman.
- That same year, the club purchased two “Baby Think it Over” dolls and donated them to Palm Desert High School’s teen pregnancy prevention program. The dolls had to be carried around and cared for constantly when in the hands of a student. If they were not picked up in a certain time period, the doll would start crying. Quite a lesson.
- Governor Margaret’s pet project in 1997 was Sunflowers for Seniors.
- In 1997, SIPD partnered with Home Depot, students from PDHS and several contractors, to make over the yard of a Palm Desert widow whose property had fallen into disrepair. The project was completed in one day.
- In 1999, the club held its first of ten years of “Art and Wine Tours of El Paseo”. Over many years, this event attracted thousands of residents and visitors and raised tens of thousands of dollars that was donated back to needy causes in the desert.
- SIPD participated in many Palm Desert Golf Cart Parades over the years. Most recently, we benefitted from members Ella Manor and Cathy Brown Wellins generous donation of a cart and time. Last year Rose Mary Jameson and Becky Goebel created an entry for Soroptimist titled, Zamboni.
- In the 2000s, SIPD sponsored women from Bosnia and Rwanda through the program Women to Women International. The club exchanged photos and stories and donated money to women who were victims of war; individual members regularly corresponded with individual women. Women to Women provided training and education to the widows who used the funding to start small home businesses from making cheese from goat’s milk to embroidery.
- In 2010, one of our members, Marilyn Alt, had a chance meeting (while on jury duty) with a board member of the Doyle Foundation based in Huntington Beach. After telling her about the SHOH, the Doyle Foundation blessed the house with a grant to pay off the remaining mortgage; Doyle Foundation continues to underwrite SHOH activity to this day. And you thought jury duty had no benefits.
- Under the Presidency of Ann Miller, the club pledged a multi-year fundraising effort to raise $30,000 for Olive Crest to expand its facility in the valley.
- Club members and “Soroptimisters” (member’s husbands) spent a day making over rooms at the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission. Rooms were painted and refurbished; Mathis Bros. Furniture contributed six sets of bunk beds.