With little fanfare or self-promotion, the women of the Soroptimist International of Gig Harbor (SIGH) have been changing lives in Gig Harbor for almost a decade.
SIGH, chartered in 2007, is part of an international organization of clubs with 80,000 members and 121 clubs worldwide that is dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls.
Dianna Putnam, the club’s treasurer, is the sole charter member remaining in SIGH.
“It’s not just a local club, it’s an international club. They’re all over the globe,” she said of the Soroptimist organization. “At one time (our club) was almost strictly business and professional women. I think it’s very interesting to see how in the nine and a half years since we started the club how we’ve evolved into a hardcore service club.”
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Community service is the major focus of the club, which participates in events ranging from Holiday Heroes with the Gig Harbor Police Department to the upcoming Peninsula School District CAPE (Career And Pathway Expo) event designed to help introduce STEM fields to middle-school girls.
We just really try to be involved in the community as a whole. For us it’s a service club as well. We want to be there with hands on and be able to serve our community.
Nita Sutich, SIGH president
The club’s years of quiet community service was recognized at last summer’s National Night Out with the Unsung Hero award.
“We just really try to be involved in the community as a whole,” said Nita Sutich, current club president and eight-year member. “For us it’s a service club as well. We want to be there with hands on and be able to serve our community.”
The main cornerstone project for SIGH is the Brussel Sprouts Project at Henderson Bay High School.
As part of the project, which collaborates with Cottesmore Center for Life and the Peninsula School District, SIGH provides funding and assistance for the child development program to improve the lives of teen parents enrolled at the school. The goal of the project is to help teen parents complete high school by providing a safe place for their children during the school day.
“I think the focus for our club is education because that is the absolute key for anything,” Sutich said.
SIGH demonstrates its commitment to education by providing several grants and scholarships to local women and girls looking to further their education, either for those just beginning their education beyond high school or those returning later in life.
“We are a small club, there are only 11 of us right now,” Sutich said. “And we’re taking on some really big things. But we can do it, I just know we can do it. We’ll put as much passion behind it as we can. You have to have goals and work towards them.”
I think it’s important to note that we’re not a standalone organization. Unlike a lot of the other Soroptimists, our club has evolved into its own persona. I think we’ve grown into our skin.
Dianna Putnam, SIGH treasurer
Those 11 members, ranging from retired to current business women, meet monthly to discuss club business and upcoming projects.
“I think it’s important to note that we’re not a standalone organization,” Putnam said about the club’s international ties. “Unlike a lot of the other Soroptimists, our club has evolved into its own persona. I think we’ve grown into our skin.”
She said that the wide-scale focus of the organization is also focused on education — specifically in advancing STEM fields for girls and women — and also in issues such as human trafficking and domestic violence.
To help fund its programs, SIGH puts on several fundraiser events throughout the year, with the next event, a “Make an Offer” garage sale set for April 9, and the club’s biggest annual event, a dinner auction and music event, set for Oct. 8.
“As we grow and as we make more money hopefully we can do even bigger and better things,” Sutich said. “Soroptimists, I believe, will be here 20 years from now.”
With community as a focus for the club, it’s no suprise that both Putnam and Sutich have family connections within the organization. Putnam’s mother is a Sorpotimist and Sutich’s daughter is a member in Gig Harbor, with her grandaughters participating in events.
“You’re a role model for your children but you also role model for your grandchildren,” Sutich said. “We’re paying it forward by what we’re doing, with those women and girls that we’re helping. We get our rewards in many ways.”
I’m still as passionate as the first day I walked in the door. I love what I do with the club. I love the women. For our little club, I do think we do quite a bit.
“We’re always recruiting. We’re always looking for people who are interested,” Putnam added. “I think the nicest thing about this club is what it asks of its members is not over the top. It’s reasonable, it’s manageable. By and large we’re not really demanding.”
With the club’s ten-year anniversary approaching next year, both women remain enthusiastic about the club and the services it provides to Gig Harbor.
“I’m still as passionate as the first day I walked in the door. I love what I do with the club. I love the women,” Sutich said. “For our little club, I do think we do quite a bit.”
For more information on SIGH and a complete list of projects, visit www.ghsoroptimist.org.