About Soroptimist of Whitefish
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.
Whitefish founded its own Soroptimist Club 30 years later in June of 1951. Over the past 60 years, Whitefish Soroptimists have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to local schools, hospitals, libraries, theaters, food banks, the Humane Society other non-profits and individuals in need.
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 is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting, protecting and bringing out the best in women and girls around the globe.
Back in the 1950's few women in Montana had their own business but local Soroptimist members were very creative at raising funds. Using their female ingenuity, they gathered and processed choke cherries then sold homemade syrup. They invited a radio personality to town and charged $10 a plate to hear him speak. They sold baked goods, costume jewelry and held rummage sales to raise more cash. They brought musical group: into town to perform and sold tickets. They are responsible for bringing one of the first all African American performing groups to Whitefish.
What did these wise women do with their money? If there was a need, these members found it and filled it, a pattern still strong in the club today. In their first three years when you could buy a house for as low as $16,000, the club donated $4,000 to worthy projects. They created an annual scholarship of to help girls study nursing. They prepared and distributed Christmas baskets for the hungry. They donated $900 to the high school band so the children could have uniforms. They spent more than $1,000 for an "opportunity" room so special needs students for the first time could have a teacher year-round and they donated to the Whitefish Library fund.
The club's business acumen and generosity quickly garnered recognition. In a 1954 Spokane Review newspaper interview, Soroptimist President Blanche Frank said,
"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 the club was highlighted in McCall's magazine September issue as one of the nation's most effective philanthropic groups.
A few years later, Whitefish Soroptimists saw a need for a retirement home so the women raised more funds, purchased, then remodeled Dr. John Simon's home on Baker Avenue (locally called 'the castle') to house up to 10 residents. The house was sold two years later and is a registered historical building today.
Over the next several decades, club members found a myriad of diverse projects to support. For example, they brought speakers to town to talk about the benefits of fluoride in public drinking water and the dangers of marijuana and illegal drug use. And they donated needed clothing, medicine and cash to disaster relief around the world from the Louisiana to the Honduras and Asia.
Earning much of their income from rummage sales, the group purchased land at the comer of Lupfer and First Street in Whitefish to create a permanent location to sell donated second-hand items. They paid off their mortgage in 2000 and made an arrangement to work closely supporting the North Valley Food Bank located next door.
Working together, these women raise more than $200,000 each year for charitable projects local and abroad.
Nearly any issue that touches the lives of women and children is fair game for club funds. For example Soroptimist Whitefish members:
- Participate in the Relay For Life raising monies to help fight cancer.
- Hand out literature at the Amtrak Depot bringing awareness to "Stop Human Trafficking."
- Bought a new water heater for the Abbie House, a shelter for abused women and their children in Kalispell.
- Give clothing, shampoo, soaps, blankets and more to the Florence Critten on Home for unwed mothers in Helena.
- Created a new project, Make A Smile program where women get much needed of dental care.
- Donation to Flathead Electric Company to help pay electric bills for people in need.
- Annually Whitefish Soroptimists give out thousands in scholarship funds to local high school students and head-of-household single moms who are working their way through college.
- Support the Arts support local organizations such as North Valley Music School and Whitefish Theatre Company.
Walk nearly anywhere in Whitefish and you will see a park, a building, a club, a person whose life has been touched by the Soroptimist women.