Soroptimists celebrate empowerment of women

By Corey Pride / Cpride@losbanosenterprise.comMay 23, 2013 

Soroptimist International of Los Banos recognized the "extra ordinary" contributions of one of its members, honored one of its pioneers who recently died and gave scholarship money Monday.

The group held its annual Women's Award Night Banquet, honoring females in the community making a positive contribution.

The event was highlighted by the announcement of the Soroptimist of the Year. This year's recipient, Pauline Scoles, was introduced by Soroptimist President Sandy Lemas.

"(She) does not consider herself to be extraordinary in any way, which actually makes her extra ordinary," Lemas said of Scoles. "Her goal is to help others and make a difference. She does what needs to be done, willing and cheerfully."

Lemas said Scoles assists with fundraisers, decorates for events and donates money when needed.

Scoles thanked the organization for recognizing her contributions.

"After 30 years of being in this club, I finally made it," she said gleefully.

The banquet featured many awards but extra emphasis was given to the June Erreca Award, which honors volunteering. Erreca, 92, died on March 6. She opened Los Banos Flowers in 1946 and was a charter member of Soroptimist International of Los Banos in 1962.

Soroptimist Sherry Pearson recounted Erreca's support of the local hospital, Catholic school and her work with the Milliken Museum.

"June lived her life as a community member, not merely a part of the self-centered crowd," Pearson said.

A poem titled "The Dash" was read by Pearson in honor of Erreca. "The Dash" represents how you live your life between the day you're born and the day you die.

"When your eulogy is being read with your life's actions to rehash, would you be proud of all the things they say about how you spent your dash," Pearson read.

Lauren Neves, a student-athlete and FFA member who has more than 1,000 hours of community service, received this year's June Erreca Award.

Perhaps the most inspiring award recipient of the evening was Lisa Bittle. She said she was homeless and drug addicted before she decided to change her life, going back to school to pursue a nursing career.

"My family and I were living in a car and my husband and I were meth addicts," Bittle said. "From 2006, Easter exactly, the lord has opened up so many doors. What reaches me the most is for my children to see hard work does pay and drugs do not."

Bittle was given the A Women's Opportunity Award, which includes a $1,000 scholarship. She plans to be a registered nurse in 2017. A Women's Opportunity Award scholarship for $500 was also given to Elena De La Cruz.

Salvation Army volunteer Bonnie Ketcher was given the Ruby Award, which is given to women who help other women. Ketcher organizes The Salvation Army's clothes closet, which assists 90 to 125 people (mostly women and children) per week.

High school student Shelby Delgado was presented with the Violet Richardson Award for her work with a Modesto group that educates girls on how to avoid becoming sex trafficking victims. Los Banos Kmart manager Jesse Castillo was also recognized for assisting Soroptimist International with clothing drives, events and fundraisers.

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