The term "Soroptimist" is derived from the Latin words "soro" for "sister" and "optima" for "the best".
Put together they represent the "best for women."
Soroptimist International, a business women's philanthropic organization, was formed in Northern California in 1921, perhaps inspired by the 1920 ratification of the 19th amendment of the U.S. Constitution allowing women in America the right to vote for the first time.
For nearly 70 years, Soroptimist International of Whitefish has worked on many levels to fulfill the Soroptimist mission of working to improve the lives of women and girls with the education and training they need to achieve economic empowerment.
While today’s Whitefish Soroptimists use the proceeds from their Thrift Haus to fund projects that help improve the lives of women and girls, the club’s first members back in 1951 were very creative at raising money. They made their own chokecherry syrup and sold it. They invited a radio personality to town and charged admission to hear him speak. There were bake sales, rummage sales and jewelry sales, among other fundraisers.
The mantra always was, “where there’s a will, there’s a way” for these early Soroptimists who created an annual scholarship to help girls study nursing and helped pay for new band uniforms, among other community-based projects. Their tenacity was recognized by a 1954 newspaper article in the Spokane, Washington, newspaper in which the Whitefish club president stated, “I don’t recall ever hearing anyone of our members say ‘I can’t.’ The only words I’ve ever heard are ‘We will.’”
That same year McCall’s magazine highlighted SI of Whitefish as one of the country’s most effective philanthropic groups.
The Soroptimist Thrift Haus has been the key fundraiser for our club for several decades now. We continue to operate the secondhand store with an all-volunteer workforce.
While SI of Whitefish continues to support community projects that benefit women and families, our focus has been fine-tuned in recent years to more mission-specific projects. We are a big financial donor to the Abbie Shelter, a local shelter that offers help and hope to domestic violence victims.
Human trafficking awareness is one of Soroptimist International’s biggest focuses these days, and our Whitefish club also has been heavily involved in getting anti-trafficking legislation passed and sponsoring educational and training workshops for local law enforcement agencies and others who work with victims of trafficking.
Our Smile of Hope dental program for women is one of the club’s flagship projects.
Supporting local youth through scholarships has been a focus since the club was founded in 1951, and we’re still going strong, providing thousands of dollars each year to high-school graduates and college students. We strongly support Soroptimist International’s Live Your Dream and Dream It Be It programs.
What hasn’t changed throughout the years is our club’s resolve to help women in need at every turn in their lives, and to empower women to live their very best lives.