Soroptimist group to mark 30 years helping women

A local chapter of a worldwide, nonprofit service organization for women and girls has reason to celebrate.

In May, Soroptimist International of Las Vegas Valley moved its bimonthly meetings and operations to the Bootlegger Bistro, 7700 Las Vegas Blvd. South.

Flash forward to October, and the chapter is slated to mark its 30th anniversary helping women’s causes around the world.

In Latin, “soror ” means “sister,” and “optima” means “best,” and the word “Soroptimist” was the club’s interpretation of its mission .

“Soroptimist is a coined word that means ‘best for women,’ ” said Shirley T. Hagen, president of Soroptimist International of Las Vegas Valley. “Long ago, Rotary clubs and Kiwanis clubs were just for men, but what about business and professional women?”

The organization was founded in Oakland, Calif., in 1921, and local women met to discuss issues and debate service projects. There are about 3,000 chapters of the group worldwide, and three are based in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Valley chapter meets at noon on the first and third Tuesdays of the month for lunch and official business. The lunch fee is $18 and includes club dues. About 18 members belong to the chapter, and membership is open to women of all ages and professions, Hagen said.

“You get to expand your horizons,” Hagen said. “Not only are you helping women and children in your community but everywhere.”

The group focuses on various service projects each year, such as “adopting” a child to outfit and ready her for a new school year, or hosting community fundraisers.

Dues also contribute to three awards given by the group each year : the Women’s Opportunity Award, the Violet Richardson Award and the Ruby Award. Recipients are community members who work to help women. The Violet Richardson Award is a student scholarship, and the Ruby Award is given to a woman who experienced adversity in her life but is changing her situation, Hagen said.

“It’s my favorite (award) because so many women’s programs have scholarship programs for women to go to school,” she said. “We think about the woman who is in school or is turning her life around and needs gas money or a bus ticket or a baby sitter to get things done.”

Festivities are being planned for the 30th anniversary, and secretary Michele Lynch said organizers are hoping to bring together past members. The invitation will ask all members to submit their Soroptimist story for a keepsake.

Lynch, a six-year member, said Soroptimist International of Las Vegas Valley has helped her fill a void since she retired from 32 years of work at the Pentagon and moved to Las Vegas.

“I’m really sold on what Soroptimist is about,” she said.

She said it has been both a philanthropic and social outlet for her.

“It’s not only a group where you get things done and see results,” she said. “It’s also a social gathering place.”

New members are welcome to attend meetings. Hagen asked prospective members to make contact with an officer before a visit.

The group’s website is

For more information, email
sarahwalker@sooptimistlasvegas or call 703-864-5698 .

Contact Centennial and Paradise View reporter Maggie Lillis at or 477-3839.

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