By Olivia Overman
Women who want to live their dream have an organization in their corner. Founded in 1956,
Soroptimist International of Manassas (SI Manassas) is an organization of women (professional, retired, homemakers, etc.) who work to help improve the lives of other women and girls through the programs it offers. Originally founded in the United States in 1921 in Oakland, Calif., Soroptimist International of the Americas is one of the four federations of SI formed as a professional women’s volunteer service organization when other similar organizations at the time limited its membership to only men. ‘Soroptimist’ meaning ‘best for women’ is what the organization strives to achieve through helping women be their best.
SI Manassas has two major programs, the Live your Dream Award and the ACTS Safe House Project. The Live Your Dream Award (formerly known as the Women’s Opportunity Award) is a cash grant award program for a woman who is the primary financial support of her family and who is also pursuing a post-secondary school education. “Once eligibility is determined, recipients are chosen by a panel of volunteer evaluators who factor in, among other things, financial need, the applicant’s motivation to achieve her educational goals, and her references,” said Jamilah Dalton, president of SI Manassas.
One recipient, Ana Vasquez, described receiving the 2018 Live Your Dream Award: “Soroptimist International of Manassas has been a blessing for me. Receiving financial support as I embarked
in my nursing studies made the burden of raising my boys and being a student less stressful. The night in which I was awarded the scholarship has left an everlasting impression on me. To be celebrated for my achievement by others who believe me helped build my confidence. I am forever grateful to the members at Soroptimist International of Manassas for their support and generosity to my boys and I. Thanks to this organization I will live my dream as a nurse.”
The organization also supports the ACTS Safe House domestic violence shelter with bi-monthly meals, food donations, thinking of you bags for new residents with essential toiletries, as well as holiday and birthday celebrations (Halloween buckets, Easter baskets, Mother’s Day baskets, Thanksgiving meal, etc.). “We
sponsor the families at the Safe House for Christmas and provide gifts for all of the residents,” said Dalton. More recently, a freezer and mini fridge was purchased, through donations, for the Safe House in memory of Jane Strong, an SI Manassas member who passed away earlier this year and was passionate about helping those in need.
More Like A Family Than A Club
With 32 current members, SI Manassas welcomes supporters of its mission, male or female, regardless of occupation. Current members include a pharmacy technician, a deputy sheriff, a beauty salon owner, an interior designer, a physical therapist, a realtor, a pastor, a curator, government employees and administrative professionals. SI Manassas is happy to work with those who are looking to make a difference in the lives of women and girls in the community.
“We come from all backgrounds,” said Dalton. “One of our current members lives in Florida but maintained her membership in our club when she moved from Virginia. Most of our members live in the Greater Manassas Area, to include Gainesville, Haymarket, Bristow and Nokesville. We also have members who
live in Warrenton, Stafford and Woodbridge,” she continued.
The Future Is For Us To Make
Volunteer organizations face tough times trying to keep membership numbers up, but SI Manassas has seen members “find their way to our club who are looking to make a difference in the lives of women and girls in our community in real and tangible ways,” said Dalton. Page Couch became a member in 2015 after
meeting Audrey Moore, a member for 40 plus years.
“Once I went to the meeting, I decided then and there that I wanted to be a Soroptimist. The ideals they possess is what I strive for. I have seen firsthand the rewards that these women do for others. It is more than an organization; it is a sisterhood. Everyone supports each other,” said Couch. “It’s is amazing to see how much of a difference they try to make in women’s lives. Life can be difficult but to see how these ladies do their best to make a difference for strangers is amazing. I am so thankful I met Mrs. Audrey and that she opened my eyes to this wonderful organization and ladies.”
Visit Soroptimist International of Manassas at simanassas. org, or follow them on Facebook.
Olivia Overman ([email protected]) is a freelance writer for both online and print organizations. She earned a M.A. in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University, Washington, D.C.