Today is my family photo day!

These women (and more who aren’t in the picture) are all my sisters. It’s a big family with more than 80 women.  Do we look like sisters? We all look different, tall, short, skin that’s fair, freckled, olive or brown, hair that’s straight, curly, blonde, red, brown, black and shimmering silver. But we are sisters. Our family name is Soroptimist; the name means Best for Women. If you haven’t heard of Soroptimist it’s an international women’s service organization that’s been around since 1921 when a group of women in California were concerned about local issues and wanted to volunteer to improve their communities, but weren’t allowed to join the ‘male’ service organizations. Now the organization has 1,300 clubs in 20 countries with ~100,000 members.

Soroptimist Vision: Women and girls have the resources and opportunities to reach their full potential and live their dreams.
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Soroptimist Mission: Soroptimist improves the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment.
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But what makes me proud to be a Soroptimist isn’t the numbers — it’s our impact. Our local Club, Soroptimist International of Saratoga County,  supports projects locally, nationally and globally that benefit women and girls (providing $45,000 support to organizations annually). Locally we support dozens of programs like Shelters of Saratoga, CAPTAIN, Camp Abilities, Girls on the Run, To Life!… and more.  By working with  and providing financial support to other caring organizations like the Giving Circle and To Love a Child, we also have an impact far from Saratoga County. Globally we’ve established birthing centers in Uganda, mobile medical units in Ecuador, we’ve drilled wells in third world communities without water and installed sanitation in a disaster ravaged area in Haiti… and more. We don’t just send funds to support those efforts. We also have Soroptimist members who travel there, volunteer, talk to the people about what their needs are, and keep up the relationships year after year. 

And of course there’s our signature service project, Project Hope and Power, an eight week financial literacy program to help women become more financially self-sufficient. Now in its 13th year, the program has assisted about 700 women to achieve a better life for themselves and their children. Our Soroptimist members volunteer more than 400 hours each year to the program. So many participants note that it’s the inspiring Soroptimist class facilitators they see each week that gives them the confidence and inspiration to achieve their goals. Here’s the feedback from just a few of the 700 women who have participated in the program; it’s heartwarming to hear that the program has helped them with increasing their financial knowledgeable, finding independence… and more.

“I liked that most of the instructors are women.  I was definitely inspired and was given strength from them… It was very empowering and supportive when I especially needed it. “

“The things I have learned from this program will help me better not only my own future, but my children’s as well.  I left each class feeling confident and able to tackle day to day tasks that will eventually lead to achieving my goals.”

“As a result of taking this class, I plan to be more confident in myself and always remember that I’m not alone.  I will get stronger as the weeks go by, emotionally and physically.  Nothing will ever stop me again.  No one person will ever bring me down again.”

What I most like about the Soroptimist vision is that by helping a woman your impact doesn’t end there. It ripples to her children, her community, and to the generations that follow. That’s a powerful “and more“.