Soroptimist International (SI)
In 1921, the first Soroptimist club was founded by Violet Richardson Ward in Oakland, California. The name Soroptimist was coined from the Latin "soror" meaning sister, and "optima" meaning best, hence our tagline "best for women." From the founding of the first Soroptimist club it has grown into a global organization with over 75,000 members in 133 countries. Soroptimist International holds the only non-governmental seat in the United Nations. To read more on Soroptimist International click here.
Soroptimist International of La Jolla (SILJ)
Soroptimist International of La Jolla (SILJ) was founded and chartered by Genevieve "Jenny" Ferguson on May 2, 1947. One of 1,300 clubs worldwide, we have studied the needs in our community, identified other non-profits who share our mission, and worked with them by providing awareness, time, effort, and funding.
In the 1950s, we started a meeting place for seniors, the Riford Senior Center, today the La Jolla Community Center. We also helped build Parker Auditorium at La Jolla High School.
In 1969, in honor of San Diego’s Bicentennial, SILJ convinced the merchants in La Jolla to display American flags in front. We had the holes dug, bought and distributed the flags and maintained them for many years. Reader’s Digest recognized our patriotism by publishing a story and photos about our “Avenue of Flags.”
In the 1980s, we found ways to have fun and raise funds, by producing the Village Vaudeville, starring our members and residents.
In the 1990s we saw a need to increase awareness and research into women’s health. We held a symposium, in conjunction with the UCSD School of Medicine and founded the Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health, and named it after our member and mentor, Dr. Doris Howell.
We spent a four year period mentoring the "Just In Time" for Foster Youth Organization, to help young women who have "aged out" of the system. We helped transition to independent housing, navigating the first years of college, and overall life skills to become self-sufficient.
Since 2010 we have embarked upon a quest to rescue and prevent girls and young women from coercion into sexual exploitation and forms of human slavery. We supported and worked with the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition to establish a thrift store and renovate the shelter it operates. We landscaped the facility, added a safe playground for the children, making it more secure and more like a home for the women and children. SILJ along with a couple of other local Soroptimist clubs, founded STAT (Soroptimists Together Against Trafficking). STAT works with a consortium of organizations, including victim services providers, educators, prosecution and law enforcement. STAT represents local Soroptimist clubs on the San Diego Regional Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.
Since 2015 we’ve been focused on women serving our country in the military. Re-entry to civilian life is challenging, especially for women. The National Veterans Transition Service Inc. assists veterans in a smooth transition to the civilian world by providing them with a three-phase intensive program. They "REBOOT" them. The REBOOT workshops have had a 97% success record by addressing personal, lifestyle and career issues. SILJ is proud to sponsor women in these workshops, mentor the graduates, and help with "a day of beauty.”
Celebrating over 75 years in La Jolla, our club is a member of Soroptimist International of the Americas, a global women’s organization of volunteers.
Soroptimists of the Year
Past Presidents of SILJ
A Poetic History of Soroptimist International of La Jolla
Written by Ronda Landrum
Jenny Ferguson was our first president
She started us right, that is evident
Chartered May 2, 1947 with 32
Time passed by and our membership grew.
The club was energetic and couldn't wait to start
Blanche Denslow offered her store and we had a book cart.
The book cart earned money, year after year,
That money got our Senior Center in gear.
We wanted to help the youth of our town
so next, a Venture Club was found.
The home tour became an event every year,
"I have voted, have you?" tags began to appear.
The March of Dimes found the ladies taping the street,
The money was sticky, the results were real sweet.
That year we joined the annual Christmas parade,
We had lots of fun with the float that we made.
Also our Christmas breakfast became an occasion
With readings and songs in the old-time persuasion.
A Day at the Races was a winner for some,
The lunch and margaritas were strictly for fun.
The Rough Water Swim and Tennis Tournament began,
A hospital bed was part of the plan.
League House began, for ladies of limited means
The American Field Service answered some dreams.
The Vaudeville began with applause and a shout,
The money brought in, increase our clout.
Proceeds from vaudeville allowed us to start
Giving our scholarships to kids that were smart.
We helped Scrippadilly and sent kids to camp.
On softball and soccer we've left our stamp.
The Meals on Wheels program had really a need,
The tutoring project needed help to succeed.
Citizenship Awards for students began,
TAP was here for a lady's new plan.
The Avenue of Flags began to cover the street,
We needed an auditorium for our dancing feet
South of the border came up with a need,
The trees that we planted were started with seed.
The children were asking for help with their faces,
The operations were done in unusual places.
The San Diego Symphony and Senior Shuttle bus
were recipients of donations from us.
My Sisters' Closet began as a room,
Now it is there to eliminate gloom.
The Storefront is there for kids from the street
Thanksgiving dinner is our special treat.
Research in health care for women was lacking
We've given it help with our financial backing.
By providing grants to students in this field
Continuing research should be the yield.
Battered women and children had problems to solve
We filled bags with toiletries and became involved.
The Rape Crisis Center had needs not yet met,
We helped there with donations of brand new sweats.
Young girls were now in distress,
Their prom was here and they had no dress,
We collected shoes, purses and dresses,
and sent them to the Fairy Godmother's secret addresses.
These are the facts, I hope I haven't missed any
and just think, all this began with Jenny.
Ronda Landrum has been a member of SILJ since 1976 and was our president in 1979-80. A dedicated member, she is known for "perfect attendance" at our meetings!