photos by Zeena Gregg Photography

Sisterhood of Service

Soroptimist International of Poway (SIP) was chartered in 1971 with the goal of fostering a spirit of service and sisterhood between women from diverse backgrounds. Along with neighboring sister clubs, SIP works to provide transitional housing for local women and children leaving abusive relationships, as well as sponsoring philanthropic programs at Abraxas High School. They take pride in collaborating with fellow service organizations in the volunteer-minded Poway community. 92064 Magazine learns more about the SIP mission from devoted members Gina Storr, Karen Dunn, Linda England, and Patty Grosch.

soroptimist_group3Where does the word Soroptimist come from, and what does it mean?
Karen Dunn, Director Elect and Past President: The name “Soroptimist” was coined by combining the Latin words soror, “sister,” and optimus, “best,” meaning “best for women.”

When and why was Soroptimist International founded?
Karen: Soroptimist International was founded in 1921 by a group of 80 women in Oakland, CA. Their goal was to foster the spirit of service through an association of women representing different occupations. Their first service project was “Save the Redwoods.” The organization now includes approximately 95,000 members in more than 125 countries and territories. Soroptimists work worldwide to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment.

What is the history behind Soroptimist International of Poway (SIP)?
Linda England, Transitional Housing Treasurer and Past President: The Poway club was chartered in 1971 by what was once Soroptimist International of Escondido.

sip at-a-glance

Name of Organization: Soroptimist International of Poway
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 223, Poway, CA 92074-0223
Meeting Location: Hamburger Factory Family Restaurant

What is SIP’s mission and how do you go about fulfilling it?
Karen: Our mission works along with our international vision of improving the lives of women and girls in our community and around the world.

soroptimist_pattyPatty Grosch, Acting President and President Elect: SIP’s mission is to help women and girls and to make a difference in the local community. I always try to help in our fundraising efforts, as well as helping to set up apartments when we have a new mom and her children moving in. I also like to help with the programs we have involving the students at Abraxas High School. Since Soroptimist is a no-guilt organization, each one of us helps out where and when we can and if we have other commitments and can’t help in one area, no worries! If we can next time, we jump in.

How did you personally become involved with SIP?
Patty: I have been a member just since 2012. I met Soroptimist member Pat Schultz at a Chamber of Commerce social and we were talking about my new status as a retiree. I mentioned that I was looking to get more involved with volunteer work. Pat started talking about Soroptimist and what their mission was and how much she enjoyed the great group of women in the Poway club. She invited me to attend a couple of meetings and see how I liked it. After the first meeting I was hooked. Here was a group of professional and retired women with the same goals and ideals that I was interested in. And they are great fun to be around.

soroptimist_ginaGina Storr, High Tea Chair: Karen Dunn, a longtime member, kept trying to get me to join SIP. I kept finding all kinds of reasons not to join, mainly I’m not a morning person. Five years ago I bought a raffle ticket for one of their fundraisers. I never win anything, but I won the grand prize which was $1,000. Since there was no way I could take money from a charity I donated it back to the club, and took that as a message that this is where God wanted me to be! So I joined, and have even adjusted to the morning meetings!

What is your current role within the organization, and what duties does it entail?
Patty: I am currently the president elect for 2014-2015. I will take office as president on the first of July officially. I have been acting president since the loss of our very dear President Candy Young. I am also the reservation chairman of our annual fundraiser, Hats on for High Tea. This means I receive all the mail, emails, and phone calls requesting reservations to our High Tea.

Gina: My big role this year was chairing the tea. We made several changes, including hiring an electronic auction site, having a dynamic fashion show, and bringing in great guest speakers, including Wendy Patrick, Emcee Carol LeBeau, and Auctioneer Jim Cunningham.

What is the most rewarding thing about your role?
Patty: The most rewarding aspect of my involvement with Soroptimists, whether it is as president elect or on the High Tea committee, is that I am working with a group of truly dedicated and talented women whose goal is to improve the lives of women and girls throughout Poway and the surrounding areas.

Gina: The most rewarding thing was working with a bunch of incredibly open-minded and hard-working women, all doing their best to guarantee a positive outcome. We were blessed to have professional expertise in all aspects of the event. And of course, testimonials from moms whose lives we transformed in our transitional housing program.

“We pick up where temporary or emergency shelters end. We offer hope and a lifestyle change.”

How has the organization grown and changed over the years?
Linda: Initially Soroptimist International of Poway focused on six programs of service, including education, economic and social development, health, environment, human rights, and international goodwill. In the late 1990s our club wanted to narrow our focus and increase our impact by identifying a primary service project. In 1996 three Soroptimist clubs, Poway, Ramona, and Rancho Bernardo, joined together to hear a program presented by a sheriff, a social worker, and a victim of domestic violence. Out of that joint meeting our housing program was formed and has transformed the lives of 49 moms and 109 children.

What are the primary goals of SIP, both short-term and long-term?
Gina: All of our club activities, projects, and partnerships must be relevant to our goal of helping women and girls, making a difference in the local or international community, and having fun – at least mostly fun!

What have been some of the organization’s most successful fundraising events?
Gina: Motorhead Madness was a huge success for us, chaired by Karen Dunn, who also owns Poway Transmissions. The High Tea has become our signature event, done as a joint venture with Soroptimist International of Rancho Bernardo. It has been a real honor working with and getting to know them better.

soroptimist_group2Can you tell us more about the transitional housing program?
Gina: Every Soroptimist club selects a service project – something that is an unfulfilled need in their community, or an issue close their heart! Many years ago members of our club had the opportunity to hear an officer from the county of San Diego speak on the growing topic of domestic violence in San Diego County. While there were many temporary and overnight shelters, what was missing was something that offered a long-term solution. SI Poway, along with SI Rancho Bernardo, decided that this is where we would concentrate our philanthropic efforts. We knew that we could provide a significant service that would transform women’s lives!

We pick up where temporary or emergency shelters end. We offer hope and a lifestyle change. Many of the women in our program leave their homes with only the clothes on their back and their children in tow. Many women stay in abusive relationships because they are not only abused physically but also emotionally. They are told repeatedly that they are worthless, will never amount to anything, and will not be able to survive without their abuser.

Our program offers a path to independence and we provide all of the amenities of home! They receive counseling through Crisis House where they meet weekly with counselors, and they are matched with a pair of our Soroptimist members who become their mentors. They receive some type of education or job training so that they are able to leave our program at the end of 18 months and provide for their children in a safe home, free from abuse. Women who are told they would never amount to anything have gone on to careers they never dreamed possible!

We take enormous pride in the fact that we have successfully served over 49 women and 109 children in our program since its inception in 1997, with a 90% success rate. It costs us over $7,500 per year to support one family. We currently have three families in our program. There are many other families that need our services, and our hope is to be able to add more women in our program and help end the vicious cycle of abuse.

“There are many other families that need our services, and our hope is to be able to add more women in our program and help end the vicious cycle of abuse.”

Can you tell us a bit about your High Tea event?
Gina: Last month’s Hats On For High Tea was our fifth annual event. It has grown every year and we have implemented a few changes to make it even more successful. This year we grossed $93,000 to support our transitional housing program.

Are there any other projects or events that you’d like to elaborate on for our readers, either recent or upcoming?
Karen: We do a lot of work with Abraxas High School, which is a continuation high school that serves students who need an educational environment that is smaller, more intimate, and more flexible than what is typically found at comprehensive high schools. Abraxas students typically select this school because they are at risk of not receiving a high school diploma and they believe that Abraxas can help to make that goal a reality.

Current Soroptimist Projects at Abraxas:
• A women’s seminar (May) that educates about domestic violence, financial freedom, and getting your first job.
• Graduation Night Celebration (June)
• Job Club information seminar (October)
• Various members also participate in the Career Fair day and the job shadow program.

Previous Soroptimist Projects at Abraxas:
• Sandwiches for kids that hadn’t had breakfast
• Halloween parties
• Award programs
• Job shadow program
• Youth Forum
• Equipment for the Learning Center
• Domestic violence programs
• Baby Think it Over Program – we purchased three lifelike baby dolls that cried and acted like real babies.
• Women’s Opportunity Award
• Graduation Night Celebration
• Career fairs
• Scholarship programs
• Award ceremony at graduation
• Funding support for the SAFE Center

Can you tell us about the annual awards SIP gives out? How would someone qualify for the awards?
Patty: The Live Your Dream award is for women with children who are the sole support of their household and want to continue their training or education to improve their lives. They must submit an application and it is submitted to a panel of at least three members of our community who aren’t members of Soroptimists. The application judged the most worthy can receive a scholarship of up to $2,000.

The Dream It, Be It program is a new annual program for girls between 14 and 18 years of age. It is meant to provide career guidance, provide mentors or role models, give exposure to different career possibilities, teach how to set goals for their future aspirations, and teach how to deal with obstacles, stress, and challenges. Each girl in the program is encouraged to write an essay submitted to Soroptimists which outlines their aims or goals and why their goals are important to them. The essay or essays chosen by the Soroptimists committee will receive a grant between $500 and $1,000.

soroptimist_group1How would somebody go about joining SIP?
Linda: Contact our membership chair Jeannie Hume and if possible visit a club meeting as our guest. We welcome all women with a desire to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. There are no membership criteria, although there is a modest financial commitment.

Can you describe the most gratifying aspect of serving the Poway community?
Patty: Poway is a city of volunteers. It is so great that when there is a need in the City, people come together and work toward solving that need. We try and network with the other service clubs in our area. Soroptimists are always so happy that we can help in some way. A lot of the volunteer service organizations work together and we have friends we can call upon when we have a need. The Kiwanis Club sometimes has a source for gently used household items and they donate them to our club for setting up a new apartment for one of our moms. Working together is always a winning solution.

Gina: The community we serve spreads throughout California and even Arizona. There are so many women and children in need, and they are all fully vetted before they come to us. Crisis House makes this determination. Our only regret is that we can’t accept everybody, but hopefully as we grow and raise more funds we can expand the amount of families whose lives we are able to transform.

Is there anything you’d like to share that most people don’t know about the Soroptimists?
Gina: It is a guilt-free organization and sisterhood! We have the most amazing group of professional, caring women whose common goal is to help women and children who are at risk.

If you could grant SIP one wish, what would it be?
Gina: To have enough resources to alleviate all the social ills with regards to women and children – domestic violence, human trafficking, providing assistance to the homeless, and assisting veterans in adjusting to civilian life.

If you had to describe SIP using only five words, what would you say?
Gina: Wonderful women making miracles happen.

Is there anything else you would like to add for our 92064 Magazine readers?
Linda: If you are interested in helping women and girls live their dreams but may not be ready or able to attend our meetings and become a member, consider joining our online community, a volunteer network that connects people online to do volunteering offline. Visit

soroptimist_candyIn Memory of Candy Young

Candy Young, a member of Soroptimist International of Poway since 1987, passed away on April 4, 2015. She was our current president. After serving as a secretary for many years, she became our vice president, then president elect last year. She was the owner of Oak Knoll Montessori Preschool for 33 years. Her motto embodied her sunny disposition and lively nature, referring to her school as, “Where learning is a happy, joyous experience.” She always wore a flower in her hair, usually a rose. She is survived by her nephew Troy and his daughter Emma.

“We will all miss her and remember her kind and gentle nature. Thinking of Candy in peace.” ~ Sandy Jacobs

“She struck me as a genuinely kind and giving woman, and that is a gift whenever you encounter it.” ~ LuAnn Boylan

“She was always colorfully and beautifully attired and I loved her red hair. While she was soft-spoken, it was easy to tell that she was a very strong and determined woman who was truly passionate about her life, her profession, and the welfare of others.” ~ Lynn Flanagan

“Candy leaves a legacy not only with us but also the many children that came her way. She truly touched the future. Her spirit and light will live on in many. Peace, Candy, you are at rest.” ~ Mary Mitchell

“She was a truly beautiful and inspirational woman. She will be missed, but her legacy will live on!” ~ Gina Storr

“We will miss her smiling face, her graciousness, and her wonderful spirit.” ~ Peggy Stewart

“I am still in shock – such a strong and gentle woman – she leaves a void in our lives. Her love for children and community is a true legacy. Candy will be deeply missed.” ~ Monica Iler

“She will certainly be sorely missed by all! She was a beacon of light to all.” ~ Marita Bugado

“She will live on in our memories. Let us honor that memory with good deeds.” ~ Enid Glick

“So, so shocking. All of our thoughts were on her at the High Tea as well; she was there in spirit and out of pain. God bless you, Candy!” ~ Trudi Kayser

“Candy – dear friend, quiet wise one, elegant lady, powerhouse! Look down and share your light.” ~ Karen Dunn

“We have all been blessed by Candy’s gentle spirit, graciousness, and love of life. I imagine her smiling at us with a flower in her hair, wearing a lovely dress and cool shoes. May she rest in God’s peace!” ~ Idel Ozarski

“It breaks my heart that she was unable to share what she was going through with us. She had a heart of gold and truly saw life as half full rather than half empty. God bless Candy, now and forever.” ~ Jeannie Hume