LA GRANDE SOROPTIMISTS 60 YEARS OF SERVICE
By Alice Perry Linker
Observer Staff Writer
The table was piled high with scrapbooks, many so old they nearly fell apart when the women picked them up.
Look at this, said Mary Lou Dean. In the 1940s, they sponsored a candy-making school.
And in the 1940s, they got national recognition for the amount of war bonds they sold, said Peggy Delaney.
Dean, Delaney and LeeAnn Case gathered last Saturday morning to review the old scrapbooks for the 60th anniversary of the
La Grande Soroptimists. Using information from the scrapbooks, they will update the service organizations history for a new-member recruitment meeting planned for March.
Through good economic times and bad, through changes in the social fabric of America, as well as changes in fabrics and styles of clothing, the women have met nearly every week to organize, plan and sponsor a wide variety of events and fund-raisers to benefit local charities and scholarships.
The June breakfast at Riverside Park is as old as the La Grande Soroptimist and supplies the money used for college scholarships. Since it began in about 1943, it has been set for the first weekend in June. In the early days, the women prepared the breakfasts and heated water over open fires. They were instrumental in building a kitchen at the park and donated the commercial stove.
The breakfast has always been able to raise enough for the scholarships, said Delaney, this years Soroptimist president. We served as many as 600 during the 1950s. Now we serve about 400.
This year the La Grande chapter will give a $2,500 scholarship to a rising senior at Eastern Oregon University.
The other big fund-raiser, the annual Festival of Trees, raised $12,316 last November for five charities. The donations included $4,700 to Shelter From the Storm, the non-profit organization that provides help and support to victims of domestic violence.
I think the most important thing we do is donate to Shelter From the Storm, Dean said.
Analyzing the way the Soroptimist organization chooses its charities, Delaney said, We try to select projects that empower people or provide nurturing, especially for women and children.
The original beneficiary of the Festival of Trees was a latch-key child care group. The first festival, in 1987, provided funds to help.
The festival, a Christmas tree auction, has moved from place to place over the past 15 years. In 2000, it moved into the new National Guard Armory and raised the highest amount in its history.
Dean and Delaney have been members of Soroptimist for a number of years, but Case is new to the organization. An executive assistant to the vice president for administration and finance at Eastern Oregon University, Case learned about the service organization from a long-time member.
I was invited to an installation luncheon, she said, and I learned that what Soroptimist does is very important.
Theyre a great bunch of women.