The word Soroptimist is coined from two Latin words “soror” and “optima”. Together this means the best for women. Truly Soroptimist has worked to live up to this name. So who are we? We are executives, professional women, business owners, lawyers, homemakers, teachers, librarians, local government employees, and bankers. In short we are your neighbors, the people you see on the street.
We work through service projects to advance human rights and the status of women. In the past, we have helped out at Habitat for Humanity, taught computer classes at the Matriarch Program, adopted a road for cleanup and gave Christmas gifts at local women’s centers. Besides hands-on activities, we also raise money through fundraisers such as nut sales, clipless coupons and our annual bingo.
We distribute the money we raise back out to the community in scholarships and awards to local students, community members and organizations. To learn more about these awards please visit our Scholarship Opportunities and Our Service Projects pages.
The first Soroptimist Club was founded in 1921 in Oakland, California. Eighty professional and business women formed the Soroptimist Club to foster the ideals of service to advance the status of women. The heart of the Soroptimist mission is to make a difference for women and girls through volunteer service to the community. There are currently 80,000 members in over 3,000 clubs in 130 countries and territories worldwide. Soroptimist International is the world’s largest classified service organization for women.
On February 16, 1937, seventeen women met to organize the Soroptimist Club of Cumberland County and on April 10, 1937 the club was officially chartered. From its beginning, the focus of the club was service to the community. This service involved both fundraising projects and hands-on activities. In 1939, the first projects to which the Soroptimist club contributed funds were a donation to the local Boy Scout summer camp and a donation to the Children’s Fresh Air Camp for a girl to attend the camp for two weeks. The combined donation for these projects was $23. By comparison, the most recent total for the club’s Community Service donations, in the 2014-2015 club year, was approximately $40,000 for numerous local and international service organizations and individuals.
As the years went on, club membership grew and projects were expanded. A particularly challenging time period was World War II when the club supported the war effort with several projects, both at home and abroad. The club had developed a close relationship with Soroptimist clubs in Great Britain and sent supply packages to them on a regular basis among other war projects that they initiated. The members also supported a club member who, as a physician, joined the war effort by enlisting in the military.
Our club continued to grow and on April 9, 1952 we separated from Vineland and continued our club starting with 19 members. The Vineland area had enough members to form their own club, the Soroptimist Club of Vineland, and it was unanimously agreed that we could function better if we were separated. In 2001, we were united once again with the Vineland club and their members’ expertise has enriched our club.
On April 13, 2012, the club marked its 75th Anniversary at the Centerton Country Club. The club had now grown from 17 members in 1937 to 71 members. Among the members and quests was Representative Frank LoBiondo who remarked that ”For 75 years the Soroptimist Club of Cumberland County has been a force for change in South Jersey, organizing and partnering in countless area to make a difference in our communities.”
As our 80th Anniversary approaches in 2017, we find ourselves grateful for our long and productive history. Our record of achievements throughout the years is significant and the number of lives we have touched are too numerous to count. Over the course of the past decades, from 1937 to the present, more than 400 professional and business women have joined our ranks to work to improve the lives of women and girls, both at home and in the international community. The total charitable donations we have raised and distributed through our fundraising efforts over the past 78 years exceed $ 700,000 in today’s dollars. The innumerable hands-on projects we have completed over these years have had a significant impact in our community.
Although we are proud of these accomplishments, we are also humbled by the challenges that lie ahead. However, we know that our future looks bright with possibility and we are confident that we will add many more accomplishments to our history in the service of women and girls.