Soroptimist International Osoyoos chapter folds after 34 years

Soroptimist International Osoyoos chapter folds after 34 years

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Dawn Lemke, Doris Walton and Osoyoos' Mayor Sue McKortoff from the Soroptimist club present Marieze Tarr and the Desert Sun Counselling and Resource Centre with a $4,500 donation cheque. (Photo submitted)

Sophie Gray

Local Journalism Initiative

The Osoyoos chapter of Soroptimist International (S.I.) called an end to 34 years of serving the Oliver, Osoyoos and Keremeos communities by presenting cheques to the Desert Sun Counselling Centre and the South Okanagan General Hospital last week. 

The local chapter of the international women’s organization can no longer hold the fundraisers needed to raise money due to COVID-19 restrictions and struggles to keep enough board members to sustain themselves, forcing the chapter to fold. 

“We just don’t think it’s possible in the next couple years to hold any fundraising events when so many people are hurting,” said Shirley Corley-Rourke, secretary and member of the public awareness committee for Soroptimist International Osoyoos. 

Soroptimist International has chapters in over 130 communities around the world. Their mandate is to “invest in the dreams of half a million women and girls through access to education,” according to Corley-Rourke.

In previous years, the Osoyoos chapter held fashion shows in the spring and fall to raise funds for their programs. Programs included high school bursaries, safe teen workshops to address issues faced by local teens, motivational programs for girls to discover meaningful career paths, and an award for female survivors of poverty or domestic violence to pursue education.

Events like the fashion show regularly hosted 140 people, which far exceeds the current 50 person maximum gathering size.

Corley-Rourke said that they also relied heavily on donations from local businesses, something the chapter is uncomfortable asking for given the current economic situation.

“We get a variety of donations from businesses … whether it’s clothing stores, the hardware store, realtors have given (to) us, so there’s a variety of businesses,” she said. ““With the COVID situation, we don’t feel comfortable anymore going out to donors that are now struggling to keep their business, or we assume. A lot of these places have been closed or are just starting to open up.”

As some of their last acts as an organization, the S.I. Osoyoos chapter presented two cheques last week to organizations they have supported in the past. The Desert Sun Counselling and Resource Centre has long been connected with the Soroptimist group, to support women and girls in the community. Executive director Marieze Tarr was presented with a $4,500 cheque by members of the chapter on June 15.

The South Okanagan General Hospital also received a donation of $5,000 from the chapter on Friday.

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