Women recognized for altering their own lives, as well as the lives of others

Soroptimist International of Gresham recently recognized three women and two teenagers for taking positive steps to change their own lives, and in praise of their commitment to impacting the lives of others through volunteerism.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: IMAGES BY KATHY - CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: IMAGES BY KATHY Soroptimist International of Gresham presented cash awards to (from left) Angela Arriaga, Madeleine Trattles, Haley Schaeffer, Sule Whitlock and Elizabeth Perry.

The women were honored at an awards luncheon Thursday, March 7, at the Gresham Elks Lodge. They were presented with cash awards to encourage and assist them in achieving their future goals.

Soroptimist International of Gresham is a professional women’s organization, dedicated to improving the lives of women and children in the community.

Through various fundraising activities, Soroptimists provide scholarships, grants and financial assistance to area students and local nonprofit groups.

The Gresham club, founded in 1977, meets at noon Thursdays, at the Gresham Elks Lodge, 3330 N.E. Division St.

Womens Opportunity Award

The award, established in 1972, is presented to women who are the primary financial supporters of their family. Recipients are striving to improve their employment opportunities through additional training or education, but lack the financial resources to make it happen. Angela Arriaga won the first place prize of $3,500; Sule Whitlock was presented with $2,000 for second place.

Arriaga, 41, is a single mother of three children and a survivor of domestic violence and homelessness. She is attending Mt. Hood Community College, working on an associate’s degree in business management, and plans to complete her bachelor’s degree at Portland State University.

After she graduates, she hopes to open a catering café to support nonprofit organizations serving the needy. She also would like to serve as an enterprise coach, helping other entrepreneurs overcome barriers similar to her own.

Arriaga volunteers with Multnomah County’s Commission on Children and Families, sharing her experiences in escaping domestic violence, and serves on the board of directors for Human Solutions. She also was selected as a winner at the regional level, receiving an additional $3,000 from the Soroptimist organization.

Sule Whitlock, 43, moved to East County in 2008 with her young daughter. She worked through a 12-step program of study and leadership, through the Celebrate Recovery Program, and is training as a co-leader facilitator for a small group of abused women.

Whitlock plans to complete her associate’s degree at Mt. Hood Community College next year. She intends to transfer to Portland State University, where she plans to earn her bachelor’s degree by 2016. She then aims to combine her master’s and doctorate work toward a Ph.D in social science by 2018. Whitlock’s long-term goal is to become a hospice social worker.

Judging the Women’s Opportunity Award candidates were: Jean DeMaster, executive director of Human Solutions; Judy Han, owner of Sunny Han’s Wok and Grill in Gresham; and Sue Hughes, owner of Resolutions.

Violet Richardson Award

The Violet Richardson Award acknowledges young women, ages 14-17, who are making their communities and schools a better place through volunteerism. First place winner Madeleine “Maddy” Trattles received $1,500; Haley Schaeffer was awarded $1,000 for second place.

Trattles, a senior at Reynolds High School, grew up in a home filled with music. She passes on her passion by teaching piano and guitar to children at the Salvation Army Center in Rockwood. Along with her four students, Trattles also helps out with the center’s 15-member student Glee Club. She credits her music students as inspiration for her volunteer work at the Salvation Army.

Schaeffer volunteers as a Zoo Teen at the Oregon Zoo. The Gresham High School senior helps educate the public on conservation issues and provides a positive experience to zoo visitors. Schaeffer served as president of the Zoo Teen Leadership Corps for 2012-2013 and was one of 20 volunteers chosen to visit the Peruvian Amazon. She also was selected as the Oregon Zoo’s 2012 Arctic Ambassador and attended a leadership/research conference in Churchill, Canada, to study climate change and polar bears.

Selecting this year’s Violet Richardson Award winners were:

Dawn Engle, retired elementary school teacher; Sunny Klever, manager, Mt. Hood Community College Foundation; and Shelley Wright, membership manager, Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center.

Ruby Award

The Ruby Award recognizes women who use their personal or professional abilities to better the lives of women and children. The $500 award is given in an employee’s name to her organization or company.

Elizabeth Perry is the Bilingual and Culturally Diverse Student Retention coordinator and coordinator for the Transitions/Transiciones Program at Mt. Hood Community College. She guides women with culturally diverse and/or economically challenged backgrounds in charting their educational planning and career goals. Additionally, Perry has served as founder or coordinator for programs on the local, regional and national levels to help improve the working conditions, wages and rights of immigrant laborers.

A committee of Soroptimist members made the selection of this year’s Rudy Award winner.

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