By Mary-Justine Lanyon
It was an event unlike others held in the past.
East year the members of Soroptimist International of Rim of the World (SIROW) present awards to a girl and two women who have had an impact on their families and the community at large. The event has always included a luncheon and speeches about the awards and the recipients.
This year, to be compliant with COVID-19 regulations, the SIROW members held the event in the parking lot at the San Moritz Lodge in Crestline. They decorated three cars with balloons and posters honoring this year’s recipients.
Each recipient stood in front of her poster and was presented with her award, a certificate and a basket full of goodies. Everyone wore masks and stayed socially distanced, as did the onlookers.
The Live Your Dream award was presented to Claudia Marsh. This award assists women who provide the primary source of financial support for their families. Many of them have had their education interrupted and wish to return to school.
The recipient may use the $1,500 cash award to offset the costs education, such as books, tuition and transportation.
Marsh came to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of 17. She was alone, wanting to learn English and pursue her dreams. She started college but soon left, getting married and having her children.
Marsh has worked as a guidance resource technician at Rim of the World High School but has now transferred to the same position at Mary Putnam Henck Intermediate School. While at Rim High, she was very involved with Scots Lodge, the closet where needy students can get clothes, food and personal hygiene items.
Last year Marsh began online classes at Crafton Hills College, studying psychology. One of the Rim High counselors told Marsh how proud she was of her for going back to school.
“But you’re always giving, she told me,” Marsh told the SIROW members. “It’s time to take a little. I was really struck by that comment.”
The high school counseling department was very influential in her decision to return to school, Marsh said. “I needed that reminder. I love being in school.”
Marsh told SIROW that “I have no regrets in the course my life took. It is because of the life difficulties that I have grown into the person I am now.
“Life is beautiful but it is also about learning how to dance in it instead of running away.”
Marsh’s daughter, who was the Rim High Class of 2020 salutatorian, has started classes at Cal State San Bernardino. Her son, a 2019 Rim High graduate, is with the Army at Fort Drum in New York. “All I know,” she said, “is he’s a geospatial intelligence analyst.” She is, understandably, very proud of both her children.
Rim High senior Kelley Kelley is the recipient of this year’s Violet Richardson award. Named for the president of the first Soroptimist club, the award recognizes young women who make their community and world a better place through volunteer efforts.
Each recipient receives a $500 cash award plus a donation of $250 to the charity of her choice.
Kelley, a Cedarpines Park resident, earned both her Bronze and Silver Awards in Girl Scouts by raising money to create an educational nature walk at her elementary school. She also helped provide resources for animal shelters and sex trafficking victims.
As an active member of her church, Kelley helps feed the homeless in San Bernardino and has participated in Rebuilding Day. In addition, she has been involved with raising awareness of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy by publishing a blog through the nonprofit Cure Duchenne.
“I volunteer in order to be the amplifier of the often silenced,” Kelley wrote in her application. SIROW President Cathy Kay said that that statement “is what really got me.”
In their description of Kelley, SIROW wrote that “she is an example of an individual who understands how acts of kindness, compassion and recognition can help people who feel ‘left behind’ by society.”
This year’s Ruby Award: For Women Helping Women was presented to Dr. Ginger Gabriel. This award honors local women who, through their professional or personal activities, make extraordinary contributions on behalf of women and children. Although not Soroptimists, their work helps promote the issues that are important to Soroptimists.
The ruby, according to the description of the award, “is associated with wisdom, importance, vitality, strength, power and love – all words that embody our award recipient.” A $500 donation will be made to the charity of the recipient’s choice.
Dr. Gabriel’s early life was deeply affected by WWII. Her father went to war and a few years later passed away from cancer. She struggled with abandonment issues and depression for years until she found a faith in Christ that motivated her service to others.
She, her husband, Stan, and their three children lived in Spain for four years while helping develop outreach programs for the church there. Dr. Gabriel has taught women’s Bible study classes, in addition to coaching soccer and other sports.
As she became aware of how many women struggled with depression and anxiety, she pursued a counseling degree and became a licensed marriage and family therapist with a specialty in emotional and spiritual healing.
Dr. Gabriel has given workshops in parenting, life management relationship skill building, communications and overcoming depression and anxiety.
As a quilt maker, she became the local representative of Quilts of Valor, which presents handmade quilts to veterans. “We are always looking for veterans in need of healing whom we can wrap in the hug of a quilt,” she told the Soroptimists.
She reminisced about presenting a quilt to a young woman at the beginning of the year. The girl’s mother died of a drug overdose when the girl was just 10. Since there was no other known family, she went into foster care. At 18 she joined the military.
“She wanted to go into the infantry so she could kill people,” Dr. Gabriel said. But because that was not an option, she joined the military police. “She bossed people around for 10 years.” Now that girl, Stephanie, is married and has two children. She later found a grandfather, who hadn’t known where she was. She went back to school and became a registered nurse and is now caring for COVID-19 patients.
“This is what we do – we encourage people. Stephanie embodies everything you choose to honor,” Dr. Gabriel said.
She plans to have the donation made to Quilts of Valor.
Roby Enany, the event chair, recognized the members of her committee: Terri Clark, Linda Godin and Linda Tyer. She also thanked Polly Sauer and Susie Stuart for the work they put in on the event.