Poway Soroptimist Club members attending a past Hats and Heels fundraiser are Abby Boretto (left) and Cindy Spilman. (courtesy of Poway Soroptimist Club)

Soroptomist Club is making a difference

by Terry L. Wilson

The Poway Soroptimist Club is part of a worldwide organization of volunteers providing women and girls with access to the education and training to achieve economic empowerment,” said Julie Bendinelli, club president.

The Poway club is 50 women strong and it has a positive impact on countless others through the organization’s unique programs.

“Within Soroptimist International we have two signature programs,” Bendinelli said.

“One of the programs is Live Your Dream, which provides financial grants to the head of household women who are trying to further their education,” she explained. “The second program is Dream It, Be It, which runs six or seven weeks at Meadowbrook Middle School. It is an afterschool program designed to get young women thinking about career paths, independence and self-esteem. We want to help them to recognize what is and what isn’t a healthy relationship. This program has been making a difference and is very rewarding for both the girls and our volunteers.”

The Poway club partnered up with the North County club and Crisis House to provide transitional housing for women and their children who have suffered domestic violence.

“This program helps them to launch into self-reliance. To date, we have helped 65 moms and 153 children reclaim their lives,” Bendinelli said. “Our Poway club is unique in that not only do we participate in a signature program for Soroptimist, we also stepped out and – along with the North San Diego club – provide transitional housing for women that are coming out of The Crisis House. … Together, our clubs collaborate, giving us the ability to provide for these women when they’re coming out of a bad situation and they just need time to catch their breath, get a job, get child care for their children and eventually be able to afford their own apartment.”

The Poway Soroptimist Club is also part of S.T.A.T. (Soroptimists Together Against Human Trafficking).

“As you can see, we have a very active group and are making great strides in alignment with our mission to help educate and empower women,” Bendinelli said.

These local volunteers know how to work hard, but once a year they prove they also know how to party at their Hats and Heels fundraiser.

“Our Hats and Heels is a fundraiser we do in conjunction with our sister club in North County. Last year, we had over 400 women attending, and we made $120,000, which goes to support the programs we work with,” Poway club public relations officer Mary Mitchell said. “It’s held at the Fairmont Grand in Del Mar on April fifth, from noon till 4 p.m.; and we have the Fifth Dimension for entertainment. It should be a great time for everyone, and it isn’t just for women – men are invited, too.”

Individual tickets for the Hats and Heels event are $150. For more information about the event, visit