The Los Banos Soroptimists Club celebrated its 60th Diamond Anniversary last month in providing services to the community.

Many Westside Express readers may have stayed awake at night pondering and wondering the age-old question “What is a Soroptimist and what does it mean?” Ponder no more since here is the scoop.

The term Soroptimist means “The Best for Women” in Latin. Soroptimist International (SI) was formed in October 1921 in Oakland, CA, at a time when women were not permitted to join service organizations. It is now the world’s largest service organization for women.

Women had just been allowed to vote per the 19th amendment a year before Soroptimists was formed. Since then, the organization has grown by the thousands and has five federations in over 120 countries throughout the world. The USA clubs are part of the “SI of the Americas.”

Throughout the years, many Soroptimist clubs were chartered by women wanting to make a positive difference and impact in their communities. Soroptimist International of Merced was chartered in October 1937 and later on sponsored Soroptimist International of Los Banos, which was chartered on June 12, 1962,

The 23 local women who became the charter members of the first Los Banos Soroptimist Club were all recognized as leaders and were actively engaged in a professional or management capacity, many as business owners. All of these women played key roles in the development of the economy and community spirit of Los Banos.

The 23 charter members included Isabel Affonso (Coffee Lane), Charlotte Bowles (Ackerman & Strouhal 0ffice Manager), Peg Connell (Connell Stationary), Genevieve Cozzi (Los Banos Grocery and Meat Locker), Pearl Degregori (Los Banos Hardware), Rosamond Duran (Rosamond’s Beauty Studio) and Betty Ellis (Ellis Studio).

Other charter members were Helen Escallier (Pacheco Liquor Store), June Erreca (Los Banos Flower Shop), Velma Faria (Natalie & Velma’s Dress Shop), Mabel Forte (Forte & Sons), Veda Gorton (Gorton Tractor Co.), Roberta Holstead (Holstead’s) and Opal Henderson (Merced Sun-Star Circulation Manager).

Charter members also included Margaret Knapp (Knapp’s Drive Inn), Evelyn Lassart (Evelyn’s Sweet Shoppe), Peggy Likens (Knits & Gifts) Henrietta Orr (Orr’s Electric Supply), Evelyn Palermo (Evelyn’s Dress Shop), Mary Pereira (Sprouse-Reitz Manager), Connie Small (Los Banos Cleaners Manager), Amelia (Benny) Silva (Crest Theater Manager), and Leoni Solis (Credit Bureaus of Merced County, Inc. Assistant Manager).

What a powerhouse of path breakers and positive role models for girls and women in the Westside community. The stories that they could tell were an inspiration as they had to overcome many obstacles and barriers for women.

These local women believed that by joining with other women and engaging in awareness, advocacy and action in the service of her community and society, they could make the world a better place for humanity, especially for women.

At that time, Soroptimist clubs had six programs of service: Health, Economic and Social Development, International Goodwill and Understanding, Human Rights and the Status of Women, Education and Environment,

In my next column I’ll provide an overview of all of the services the club has provided since 1962. In future columns I’ll also be writing about other service clubs and organizations.

For any additional questions or comments, contact me at 209.777.5974.