Soroptimists give local women a helping hand

Cancer patients can make their way to their off-island appointments easier, local women and girls have more access to education and training, Safe San Juans and the Joyce L. Sobel Family Resource Center are given additional community support through Soroptimist International of Friday Harbor.

The Cancer Transportation Fund has become one of Soroptimist signature projects. After realizing the struggle islanders with cancer have to get to their treatments, Soroptimists began buying ferry tickets for those individuals so they and their families have one less worry on their minds, and one less barrier to getting the medical attention they need.

Soroptimists have always recognized that education, whether by a community college, trade school, or four-year university is often a stepping stone to attaining one’s goals. Women have faced educational barriers. To overcome those barriers, Soroptimist offers a number of different awards and scholarships.

In 2021, award winners included Halley Byrne, Megan Haagensen, and Victoria Polda. Byrne was working her way through the pre-nursing program at Skagit Valley Community College to enroll in their RN program when her prerequisites were completed. She then plans to get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing through the University of Washington bridge program.

Polda was at the Colorado School of Mines for a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering. She plans to pursue a career in hardware engineering or integrated circuits and electronics either in industry or research and to one day work on quantum computers.

Haagensen was studying to become an elementary school teacher and will soon receive her Associate in Education degree from Skagit Valley Community College. She has been accepted to Western Washington University, with Distinction, and hopes to be accepted into the Woodring College of Education where she will continue her studies.

In 2022 the $3,000 STEM Scholarship was awarded to Friday Harbor High graduate Robin Taylor, who went on to the University of Washington to study Chemical Engineering. Taylor told Soroptmists that she cares deeply about the environment and wants to pursue a career that encourages positive change.

The two winners of the Soroptimist $2,000 scholarships that year were Isabel Graham and Amelia Eltinge. Graham went on to Arizona State University at Tempe, to study Speech Language and Hearing Sciences. She planned to earn a master’s degree and become a Speech Pathologist. Her goal is to return to the island and work with children with speech disorders.

Eltinge went on to Washington State University at Pullman in the Honors College to work toward a Doctorate in Pharmacy and a minor in Business. She told Soroptmist she would like to own her own business in the future. While a Friday Harbor High student Eltringe was heavily involved in her community, and school activities and wants to help people in her career.

The Ruby Award is a special award that recognizes special women in the community, who are not Soroptimist but who, through their professional or personal efforts, is making an extraordinary difference in the lives of local women and/or girls. In 2022, The Ruby Award went to Ashly Strutz and Melonie Kaegi for their work with high school girls and for forming a girls’ circle. $500 went toward resources they might need for the circle.

In 2023, Soroptimist gave tribute to Rachelle Radonski, manager of the Friday Harbor Foodbank, by donating $500 to the food bank recognizing her efforts.

Each year, Soroptimists donate money to support the amazing work of SAFE San Juans and the Joyce L. Sobel Family Resource Center staff members. During the holiday season, Soroptimist also placed care cans around Friday Harbor to help collect household items for families in need. Those items were brought to the Family Resource Center where it was dispersed. Soroptimist members joined with Safe San Juan’s Stand Up Men at the courthouse in October to call attention to domestic violence.

This touches on just a few things these women did to help the women in their community. There will be a spring fundraiser May 9 at Saltwater Farms. To learn more or become involved, visit their website at