No doubt, we are living in unparalleled times, and statistics show that women have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic, especially those with children.

According to the National Women’s Health Network (NWHN), “COVID kills more men, but the social and economic consequences of the pandemic are landing hardest on women.” Women’s careers span the world of business, science, education, politics, the arts, etc., but the pandemic has hit the service industries the hardest. Since so many women work in service industries such as restaurants, day care centers, and the beauty and hospitality industries, they have suffered “60% of pandemic related job losses.” Then, there are the frontline healthcare workers, the majority of them women, who face a high risk of infection and of bringing it home. Scores of women have left the workforce, some because they lost their job, and others because they had no daycare options available for their children. Since women are more likely to be the caregivers, they disproportionately have been the ones to stay home overseeing their children’s remote learning. If they are working from home, they wear many hats. And then there is the task of maintaining the emotional and mental health of their children, as well as their own. It cannot be disputed that juggling it all can be a challenge… a recipe for stress.

Soroptimist International of Benicia, a non-profit volunteer organization that serves women and girls,  is aware that their help is needed now, more than ever. At Christmastime, the club provided 47 Holiday Giving boxes with over 1200 pounds of food, along with gift cards, to be delivered locally. In addition, food, toys, and gifts were provided to the four previous Soroptimist Live Your Dream award recipients and their children. During the summer, in partnership with the Solano Community Foundation, members donated $8200 to the “Snack Pack Project,” providing meals for 100+ students per day, 7 days a week. Mask making was a project earlier in the pandemic, in which members sewed 350 masks to be distributed to seniors, care facilities, and others in need.

In keeping with their mission of providing women and girls with access to the education and training they need to achieve economic empowerment, Soroptimist of Benicia recently awarded two young women with a Live Your Dream Award. Due to budget constraints, two awards were given this year as opposed to last year’s four. Soroptimist Live Your Dream Award program is a unique education-related grant for women who provide the primary financial support to their families. The Live Your Dream Award gives women the resources and support they need to improve their education, skills, and employment prospects; to achieve their dreams. The program begins at the local Soroptimist club level where recipients can then become eligible for region-level awards. Region award recipients go on to compete at the international level. Since the Live Your Dream Award program began in 1972, about $30 million in education grants have been disbursed to assist tens of thousands of women to achieve their dreams of a better life for themselves and their families.

Over half of Soroptimist Live Your Dream Award recipients are survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking, or sexual assault.

Nearly all of the women and families served over the years by the Live Your Dream Award have overcome enormous obstacles. Award recipients may use the cash award to offset any costs associated with their efforts to attain higher education. 

Soroptimist International of Benicia prides itself in the daily contributions to individual and community well-being. Through grants, scholarships, mentorship, education, and food and shelter, the club strives to change the narrative for women and girls. Now, more than ever, in these unprecedented times, the work to educate, empower, and enable opportunities for women and girls is crucial.

Please visit our website, to see the Winter 2020 Impact Report that gives details of the projects and programs of the organization. Tax deductible donations are accepted on the website, or mail to: Soroptimist International of Benicia, PO Box 282, Benicia, CA. 94510