Soroptimist, making a difference | Women in Business Special

For the last 20 years, Soroptimist International of Friday Harbor has been making a difference for women and girls county-wide. It began with the vision of Pat Hansen, founder of the club.

“I felt the need to start a local Soroptimist chapter because the Soroptimist mission, was ‘Making a difference for Women.'” Hansen said. That mission allowed Soroptimist to address issues specifically impact the lives of women and she saw a real need for that in San Juan County.

While much of the community felt island women were just fine, and saw no problem, Pat Hansen and her original band of 34 Soroptimist disagreed. They pulled together to raise money for scholarships and awards for local women. An emergency fund for local women in dire need was established. This fund has helped countless women pay for medical care, power bills so they would not freeze during winter months, and helped many others in numerous ways. Today, with membership over double its original number, the club has worked to provide additional dollars for the Women Infants and Children program. (See the Journal’s July 9, 2013 article, “Friday Harbor Soroptimist’s walk the talk,” or read the online version at and added additional money for senior citizens this year. One of their more well known programs is the cancer transportation project, which past president Ellen Roberts calls its biggest accomplishment.

“Each year we continue to provide about $17,000 worth of tickets,” she said.

Other community projects include partnering with the Family Resource Center and SAFE San Juans, an organization whose mission is to prevent and eliminate domestic violence and sexual assault.

On Nov. 19, Soroptimist’s Friday Harbor chapter will be celebrating a Thanksgiving by delivering thanksgiving baskets to members of the community in need. It is a project that leaves everyone feeling good, from the cooks who lovingly prepare the feast for each basket, to the recipients.

Around the world, Soroptimist International of Friday Harbor has been working hard too. They raised funds, and collected bras for Free the Girls, an organization helping women in Africa and developing nations, who have escaped trafficking to become financially self reliant by selling gently used bras. Soroptimist also donated to Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, as well as contributing to Birthing in the Pacific, a Soroptimist International project tackling maternal, and infant, mortality around the Papua New Guinea region. The Soroptimist International project this year is working to assist women and girls of Tibet, who have been struggling since an earthquake devastated Nepal last year.

Soroptimist members are accepting applications for its scholarships and awards. Live Your Dream applications, an award to help women better their lives through education and training, are now being accepted.

Check out its website at for more information on that and other scholarships.

The scholarship program is one of the reasons president-elect Mary Campanella joined Soroptimist.

“Education is the magic bullet,” Campanella said, “and Soroptimist scholarships assist women in obtaining a life changing education.”