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Charlotte Guard wins Soroptimists’ community service award

Friday Harbor High School senior Charlotte Guard, third from left, at the annual presentation of the Violet Richardson Community Service award. With her, from left, grandmother Helen Sawyer, mother Jane Sawyer, Soroptimist President Debbie Staehlin, and godmothers Shelle Cropper and Jane Burton Bell.                                                                  - Contributed photo / Carol Jackson
Friday Harbor High School senior Charlotte Guard, third from left, at the annual presentation of the Violet Richardson Community Service award. With her, from left, grandmother Helen Sawyer, mother Jane Sawyer, Soroptimist President Debbie Staehlin, and godmothers Shelle Cropper and Jane Burton Bell.
— image credit: Contributed photo / Carol Jackson

Soroptimist President Debbie Staehlin introduced Joyce Sobel, who chaired the Soroptimist Club selection committee (which also comprised Nancy DeVaux and Lenore Bayuk), March 18.

Sobel presented a certificate, flowers and a check for $750 to Charlotte Guard. The Friday Harbor High School senior was selected winner of the annual community service award, which is named for the president of the first Soroptimist Club in 1921, Violet Richardson.

Richardson “believed in personal responsibility and the motto, ‘It’s what you do that counts,’ ” Sobel said.

Charlotte was chosen from eight worthy applicants who met the guidelines — age 14 to 17, improving life in their community, and dedicated to volunteer action.

She was cited for volunteering five and a half hours a week in the English as a Second Language Children’s Program at the San Juan Island Public Library.

“Charlotte found this program after being inspired by living with a Spanish family for 10 months in Barcelona, Spain,” noted Sobel, who then quoted from Guard’s VRA application:

“It is estimated that the average female says about 8,807 words a day while the average male says only 6,073, that’s a lot of words! ... imagine not being able to use those words, not understand them.”

She went on to tell of the struggle it was, and how she almost gave up at the embarrassment she felt and then her elation as she gradually understood because of the help and patience of others.

When she came home she realized that her “efforts to become fluent in Spanish could have benefits for my community.”

Sobel said, “Charlotte recognized that her own personal experience struggling with and overcoming language and cultural barriers while in Spain was — and I quote from her essay — ‘what it is like for the Hispanic population living on San Juan Island who do not speak English. Many came here for a better life but struggle to communicate on a very basic level. This was my motivation’ to volunteer for the ESL program ‘that teaches English as a second language to those willing to learn.’ ”

Charlotte certainly lives up to Violet Richardson’s personal motto, “It’s what you do that counts.” And the Soroptimist motto, which we swiped for this column even before joining that group: “Making a Difference.”

— Contact columnist Howard Schonberger at 378-5696 or hschonberger @sanjuanjournal.com. He is Charlotte Guard’s proud grandfather.

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