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Soroptimists honored for service
For helping other women, the Soroptimist of Ceres has received a first-place Certificate of Recognition from Soroptimists Celebrating Success! 2007.

The international organization recognized Ceres for its Soroptimist Encouraging Women (SEW) program that has served women in the Stanislaus Recovery Center in Ceres for five years.

The Ceres club came out as one of the top 350 projects from 20 countries submitted for consideration. The award was in the area of "Status of Women and Girls.

According to project founder, Arlene Vilas, SEW provides a series of monthly workshops geared to assist the women at SRC in exploring, developing and utilizing their own personal strengths. Members conduct workshops to teach women in recovery how to make themselves more presentable with make-up and dress tips, how to be effective parents, self-defense, how to fill out a job resume and good job interviewing skills, improving health, understanding personality traits, writing skills, family traditions, and even floral design. They're also given journals to pen out their thoughts.

Members set up the workshops - which are held on Monday evenings - ahead of time by preparing name badges, refreshments, and decorating the room. Ladies are greeted, too, by floral arrangements which they take back to their quarters, as a reminder of the encouragement of the evening.

"They always thank us for treating them with respect," noted Soroptimist member Paula Phipps.

"They're very appreciative of us giving time," added Sharon Caruso.

Fran Welsh said she always leaves the workshops encouraged by the women in recovery.

"They humble us," said Phipps. "Sometimes I go home and cry."

Women in the program do not fit any particular stereotype, said Soroptimist members. Some of the women served have been on the streets for years, some are professionals, some are young and some are grandmothers.

The project also offers a Clothing Closet component to which Soroptimist members and the Ceres community donate items of clothing to the women at the recovery center. Frequently the women enter the recovery programs with only the clothes on their backs. Vilas said the Clothing Closet adds the dimension of making appropriate clothing available to women who are re-entering the work world and also provides an opportunity to enhance the women's personal appearance and self-confidence in day-to-day life.