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Soroptimist International of Visalia

Sep 30, 2019 11:00AM ● By Enjoy Magazine

Make a Difference

October 2019
Story by RachelTrigueiro
Photos courtesy of Soroptimist International of Visalia



IN A TIME  when people are tending to move away from organized groups, Soroptimist International of Visalia is vibrantly alive, keeping women’s issues at the forefront by actively making a difference in the community.

Soroptimist’s mission is to improve the lives of women and girls to bring social and economic empowerment. Visalia’s chapter was established 80 years ago, when only professional women could join. They have since dropped this requirement and opened their doors to “any woman who is willing to serve their community,” says Jody Gilman, president of Soroptimist Visalia. 

Gilman’s grandmother was one of the original founders in 1939 but couldn’t join because she was not a businesswoman. Gilman’s mom went on to be a member; now, she and her daughter are active participants, making it four generations strong. Gilman is passionate about bridging her grandmother’s generation with the younger generation. “It doesn’t have to look the same, but our intention and mission remains. It can look different, while honoring the past and still moving forward to bring change.”

Their heart for women in need has allowed the organization to generously give more than $800,000 in many different ways. One way is through scholarships at the annual Live Your Dream Awards. Last year, they gave $10,000 to a few women who are head of household and have returned to school to better support their family. Gilman discusses the gap between financial aid and the daily necessities in life. Financial aid doesn’t necessarily cover gas, diapers and bills, but “there are no strings attached with these scholarships,” she says. 

Another way the group serves is with Family Services of Tulare County – specifically, their women’s shelter, Karen’s House, and human trafficking rescue shelter, Freedom House. Members have participated in renovating Karen’s House and throwing Mother’s Day celebrations to nurture women who are escaping domestic violence. Soroptimist is committed to bringing education and awareness to society, and therefore offers free events to the public, like the sexual assault event they hosted last spring at College of the Sequoias.

For the younger generation, the club hosts the free Dream It, Be It Conference in October at First Presbyterian Church in Visalia. Junior high and high school girls will participate in practical and inspirational workshops, with professional role models helping them make steps toward their career dreams. 

The club meets twice a month at the Left of Center restaurant. For membership inquiries, event details or to make a donation, please visit their Facebook page. 

Soroptimist Visalia is committed to face-to-face conversations, uniting generations of women through community service and empowering them to make a difference. According to Gilman, “Women are the glue of the social fabric. By improving their lives, you improve the community,” 
and that is what Soroptimist aims to do.   •

Soroptimist International of Visalia
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