La Mesa Soroptimist honor youth workers

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It takes a lot to get a ballroom full of people to gather the day before Thanksgiving at 7 a.m., unless it’s for a good cause, and working for good causes is nothing new for La Mesa Soroptimist International.

It takes a lot to get a ballroom full of people to gather the day before Thanksgiving at 7 a.m., unless it’s for a good cause, and working for good causes is nothing new for La Mesa Soroptimist International.

The La Mesa Soroptimist Club has been holding their annual Pre-Thanksgiving Community Breakfast for fifty-six years (LMSI was chartered in 1951). This year the breakfast was at the Handlery Hotel in Mission Valley, where holiday decorations were up, spirits were high, and the California Note Catchers choir sang patriotic and holiday songs for the many women and men in attendance who do more good for East County than people can possibly know. 

The main mission of the Soroptimist Club is to help women and girls—unemployed, impoverished, abused, dealt a bad hand, and in need of support. The positive ripple effects of La Mesa Soroptimist International are clear and tangible. To name a few, LMSI provides educational assistance, prepares meals to hungry women and children, and takes on certain projects, such as creating a private room and safe place at the San Diego Police Department for victims of the local sex trade (a project by STAT, Soroptimists Together Against Trafficking, three years going and a combination of seven different Soroptimist clubs). Many things LMSI does and the people who assist in its mission give without expectation, and the breakfast was a way of honoring and acknowledging them. 

“My biggest thing is the Rachel’s Homeless Women’s Center, we feed about thirty-five women at a day center once a month. But I can’t even name all of the times the Service Brigade has been called for support and we go!” said Christine HartwelI, who described holding every position with LMSI “from top to bottom and back again.”

The Service Brigade, Hartwell said, is six volunteers from the club “who get in their Soroptimist T-shirts and respond to the call to the call for volunteers, such as registration for the Komen Walk.”

The ballroom was buzzing with activity-greetings, congratulations, planning, as Hartwell explained the many problems women continue to face everyday, “women who have for whatever reason lost their way.” 

Those reasons are why the Soroptimist clubs all over Southern California joined the La Mesa club at the breakfast, and united in their causes.

“It takes an average of seven times for a woman to leave her abuser, sex trafficking has the same psychological aspects of domestic violence,” said Soroptimist Kathy Blair.

For a generous community who serves the community, a breakfast buffet on the day before Thanksgiving proved a successful opportunity to reflect and rejuvenate the call to help others. 

This year, LMSI chose seven honorees from organizations in the community who work with children.

Keynote Speaker was Michael Carr, Former Executive Director Social Advocates for Youth (SAY San Diego). Carr gave a speech not just about the honorees whose professions involve helping overwhelming numbers of at-risk youth. He spoke in detail about the type of person who can day after day, in many cases year after year, maintain hope and habitually instill it in the most vulnerable people in the community.

“You’re normal because you have a buffer, someone loved you. System kids never had that. Youth workers are handed kids who need a place to go, a way out of a hole, or kids who are about to fall into a hole,” Carr said to pensive listeners.

There are four factors that distinguish certain youth workers, according to Carr.

“They’re compelled to help, they’re tenacious, they have humility, and they maintain joy and exuberance,” he said.

Among those organizations with workers honored were SAY San Diego, San Diego Rescue Mission, Voices for Children, Boys & Girls Clubs of East County Foundation, Girl Scouts San Diego, YMCA Youth & Family Services and Home Start Inc.

To learn more about La Mesa Soroptimist International, visit silamesa.org. 

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