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Recognition of Women evening hosted by local Soroptimists
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Zenia Zuniga of Ceres (center) was honored with the Soroptimist International of Ceres Ruby Award on March 21. Presenting the award were club President Bernadette Richardson (left) and Paula Phipps. - photo by Photo courtesy of Becki Barton Nicholes

Zenia Zuniga, whom started up and heads the Stanislaus County chapter of the Pajama Project which collects and distributes books and pajamas to county foster children, was recently honored with the "Ruby Award" by the Soroptimist International of Ceres.

The service club gives the annual award to a Ceres woman who is doing work in her community to improve the lives of women and girls. The award was given during the March 21 "Recognition of Women evening." The event recognized and presented awards to young women who make a difference in their community by their volunteer efforts and who are working to improve their own circumstances.

Jessica Calderon, an active student at Central Valley High School, was presented with the Violet Richardson Award. The award is given each year to a young teenage girl who volunteers to improve the lives of peers. Calderon is active both at high school and in soccer organizations.

Loretta K. Webb and Brianna M. Spiess were given the Women's Opportunity Award, which is design for a woman who is the primary supporter of her family, has had to overcome enormous personal obstacles to improve her family and is enrolled in a degree or vocational course of study. Webb has also won the Soroptimist International Sierra Pacific Region award which will be presented to her at the Region conference to be held in April and will be considered for one of three $10,000 awards at the Soroptimist International level.

The club also bestowed honors on club members who had received awards from their local communities. Sophie Pallios and Denise Pallios Zagaris were recognized for receiving the Ceres Chamber of Commerce Legacy Award; club member Becki Nicholes, who with her husband Bryan Nicholes were recent Ceres Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year; Dr. Lynette Grandison, who was a recipient of the Stanislaus County Commission for Women Outstanding Woman of Stanislaus County award.

Speaking briefly about the benefits of the Ceres Soroptimist Encouraging Teens (SET) program for junior high school girls were Blaker-Kinser Junior High School Principal Kristi Britton, Cesar Chavez Junior High School Principal Jose Beltran, and Mae Hensley Junior High School Principal Carol Lubinsky. SET provides educational speakers, hands-on activities, and positive interaction for junior high school girls.

The presidents of the Ceres High and Central Valley High School "S" clubs spoke briefly about their year's activities. S clubs are supported by Soroptimist clubs and encourage active community volunteer opportunities for high school students. S Club members have the opportunity to earn scholarships and recognition for their volunteer efforts.

Soroptimist International of Ceres is a volunteer organization for business and professional women that improves the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. Chartered in 1972, the Ceres club is part of Soroptimist International of the Americas.