Marysville Soroptimists celebrate 30th anniversary
August 28, 2008 · Updated 3:54 PM
MARYSVILLE Approximately 18 years ago Leanne van Belle was a stay-at-home mom with four children. That all changed, had to change, when her husband developed inoperable vascular brain tumors.
Doctors told van Belle to take her husband home and make him comfortable during what time he had left.
Van Belle was one of several speakers during the annual awards dinner of the Marysville Soroptimist International held May 13. The event marked the 30th anniversary of the local women's group, which invited past award winners such as van Belle to share their stories.
Eventually, as her husband had to stop working, the family lost their car and probably more importantly, their home. They moved into what van Belle described as an old, rusty mobile home with a very leaky roof.
At some point, someone put a $20 bill in her mailbox. That money meant, she said, that she could buy her children food that week. Van Belle never found out who left that money, but tears clearly were in her eyes as she told her story.
It was about this time in van Belle's life that the local Soroptimist group stepped in. Van Belle became a recipient of the group's Women's Opportunity Award. With financial help from the Soroptimists, van Belle began attending Everett Community College. She became a dental hygienist and has been in the field for 14 years.
"I challenge you," she said to those gathered, "to continue to help women like myself."
This year's opportunity award winners were Marla Phippen and Josette Frase.
Phippen was not in attendance at the dinner because she was studying for upcoming tests in the nursing school she entered at age 51, leaving behind an allegedly verbally abusive husband. The second winner, Frase is a single mom who is about to receive her associate's degree, then go on to a four-year school looking to become a teacher.
All in all, local leaders said the national Soroptimist group gives out over $1 million a year to help women in difficult situations not only deal with those situations, but achieve.
Soroptimist President Caroline Brown said the Marysville group started with 23 members in 1978. They met at the Village Restaurant and had a budget of about $1,500. Besides hitting reaching their 30th anniversary, the group hit another milestone this year, said group President-elect Carol Biegler. With 11 new members, the group has reached 35 members total, a figure that represents a new high.
Biegler talked a lot about the group's activities over the years, with the annual Strawberry Festival fashion show being one of the organization's biggest and longest running events. The group also is well known for co-sponsoring with the local Kiwanis the Student of the Month Award at Marysville-Pilchuck High School.
Local Soroptimists also are involved with area hospices, the Marysville Food Bank, the Marysville Historical Society and numerous other service groups and charities. The Soroptimist budget has increased slightly since 1978, with approximately $14,000 donated to organizations such as the Marysville Food Bank alone.
Other awards given out during the dinner included the Violet Richardson Award, named after the founder of Soroptimist International and honoring community volunteers. This year's recipient Sheela Vadset spends most of her volunteer hours with Mountain View Presbyterian Church. She enjoys working with children so much, she intends to return to school and become a teacher.
Vadset's award included $500 for herself and $500 for her charity, namely Mountain View Church.
Finally, there were two winners of the Making a Difference for Women Award. The Soroptimist's Renee James said the award honors women who have chosen to make a difference in the lives of other women.
Cha Monteith works for the Salvation Army and local food banks in Everett and in Marysville. She especially mentioned working with homeless and teenaged runaways in Everett. Monteith said the work has taught her a lot about herself and how fortunate she really is.
The second Making a Difference Award went to Jeralita Costa, who serves as a crime victim's advocate. She said her work has taught no matter what happens, you can survive if you choose to do so. She also said no social contribution is too small.