Soroptimist International of Ottawa passed quietly and peacefully into Franklin County history in May 2018 after nearly 70 years of existence. The club disbanded after its May 24th meeting, according to a press release.
The cause of death for this once vital local entity is varied, the release said. Changes in society, attitudes toward public service, lack of loyalty to organizations and communities, the pressure of families and careers, finances and even apathy could all be considered as contributing to the demise of many service organizations, the release said.
The organization sponsored many community events since its chartering in 1949. The club’s dozen members hope groups and individuals will continue to provide the service and community support needed to make the community viable through other avenues, according to the release. The legacy of Soroptimist International of Ottawa will be found in the future at the Franklin County Historical Society Records Center.
“SI” — as organization was known — was chartered by a group of progressive, forward thinking Ottawa business women and professionals, the release said. Through the years, SI implemented many projects, activities and fundraisers targeted toward the mission of helping to educate and empower women and children as well as many community-based projects. All of those activities were accomplished without political, religious or personal agendas from the members, according to the release.
The release said during the construction of the flood control dikes SI members were instrumental in assisting with the dismantling and then reconstruction of the limestone gates at the entrance of Forest Park, 320 N. Locust St., Ottawa. SI helped paint rooms during the remodeling of the Old Depot Museum, plant bushes and flowers along Main Street in downtown Ottawa, supported the construction of the Veterans Memorial, Haley Park and Ottawa University projects, the release said. Ransom Memorial Hospital received donations from SI to remodel and develop a women’s health center with emphasis on the mammography unit, according to the release.
Before Meals on Wheels was a funded program, SI worked with local restaurants to make daily meal deliveries to residents in need, the release said. Before Communities in Schools’ after-school programs were instituted, SI developed a program called “Phone Friend” for latch key children who were home alone.
In the 1980s, SI sponsored a farmer’s market on Saturday mornings that grew into a twice weekly market that gives producers of fruits, vegetables, eggs, beef and honey a place to sell them.
The Franklin County Literature Festival, reading to kids at East Central Kansas Economic Corp. Head Start, providing needed items for the Willow Domestic Violence Center, meals for the Ripples for Change program, After Prom parties, DARE Camp, Life Care, making ice cream for the Franklin County Cancer Foundation, Space Camp, Girls State are just a few of the service projects SI was involved in, the release said.
Since 1949, women and students have been aided through awards such as the Women’s’ Opportunity Award, the Youth Citizenship Award, Live Your Dream Award and Violet Richardson Award, the release said.
SI provided free educational programs on a variety of topics to area residents through the Best for Women series. Self defense, care for the caregivers, financial security, parenting advice, stress relief and creative thinking are just a few of those topics, according to the release. Fashion shows, spring teas, district and regional meetings are other ways SI aided the community and educated the members.
The organization sponsored many unique fundraisers such as the annual beef stew dinner for 50 years, pecan and flower sales, the release said.
The group’s members were: Lucille Hinderliter, 1969; Christine Campbell, 1988; Janet Peters, 1990; Virginia Lancaster, 1997; Betty Birzer, 2003; Kim Finney, 2009; Lenora Brecheisen, 2010; Lana Bollig, 2012; Gloria Musick, 2014; Renee Campbell, 2014; Susan Rader, 2016, and Stephanie Valencia, 2016.