Our History

history of Soroptimist international of Eureka 

May 28, 1938 Soroptimist Club of Humboldt County was chartered at an impressive dinner at the Eureka Inn. The group had been inspired by Mae Pettingill and sponsored by Regional Board of Southwestern Region and four clubs, Oroville, San Francisco, Sacramento and San Jose.  There were representatives of all of these groups and prominent citizens of Eureka present for the evening affair. Thus began a story of service that spreads through the whole community affecting the lives of many individuals particularly those who have shared in the program giving of their time and money.

The group continued to meet at the Eureka Inn each week for lunch with a brief exception in the early fifties when the roar of the Lions in the next room and the monotony of the menu became intolerable. Within a few weeks, meeting at the Inn resumed, for parking and access to the Elks Club at lunch time as too difficult. The Elks at the time were in the upper floors of the bank building at Fifth and H Street. In more recent time, with the closure of the Eureka Inn, the meetings move to the Red Lion Hotel and for a while to Shamus, a restaurant near the Bayshore Mall. The meetings have since resumed at the Red Lion Hotel for convenience, parking and great customer service. 
The Ways and Means projects of the group have been many and varied through the years. The usual baked good and rummage sales were tried, raffles floundered, but most successful for many years were the Fashion Shows sponsored jointly with Daly’s Department Store. For a number of years this was a combination movie special showing with a Fashion Show, both a matinee and evening sold out houses at the State Theater. These were social events for the whole of Eureka, and a sell out for tickets for several years. Of course many remember the Lingerie Fashion Show for men near Valentine’s Day, spoiled by the year one man took it upon himself to video the show and hold private showing for his friends.  For ever willing to proceed in new ways, the latest money raising extravaganza is “Fabulous” A Ladies Night Out, reminiscent of the Fashion Shows of yore, but with more flash and spirit held at the Blue Lake Casino, and a few other venues over the years.

As these money raising idea waned, other were tried. Fish Fries at Redwood Acres after the Rhododendron Parade was next. Then for four or five years the middle of March brought the Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinners. Then we initiated Spaghetti Dinners held at various sited around town, final in recent years held at the Presbyterian Church. For a few years a Wine and Cheese tasting with an Art Auction was held very successfully in the lobby area of one of the local banks. Fine Art Shows were done for several years as an add on to the Jazz Festival, in which we even had a celebrity artist show, Gary Burghoff, “Radar” from Mash.  It was then changed to just Arts & Craft Fair held in the streets of Henderson Center.  The street was closed down F Street between Harris and Henderson and vendors sold their wares.  A Soup and Salad lunch fundraiser was also done for many years in November at the St. Bernard’s Parish Hall.
Unfortunately there have been a few crashing failures like buying out the house for a musical presentation of the Light Opera Company and losing over a thousand dollars. Many recall the infamous coffee mugs for the First Jazz Festival which did not sell. Then there was the year of the fruitcakes that did not sell. The sale of box lunches at the Civil War Reenactment Days was less than rousing success. In recent years, the Soroptimist mouse pads are still around but are slowly depleting as we give one to every new member.  Somehow through a combination of large and small projects, the Service budget goals for each year are met.

When the Senior Resource Center was developed at the former Washington School site, this club began donating money annually to support different programs sponsored there. The first was to donate thousands of dollars to purchase equipment for the Exercise Room over several years. Then followed support for the Alzheimer’s Resource Center, particularly through the Annual Walkathon, sponsored for a number of years in conjunction with the Humboldt Bay Club. For many years the Eureka club sponsored a room at the YWCA at Eighth and H Street. Many hours of effort were put in on several occasions redecorating with paint, wallpaper and other additions. At the original fund drive for the new Humboldt County Library building, a contribution of $5000 was made.

To extend the influence of Soroptimist, this club has sponsored new clubs in the North Coast area. First was the change of their name from Soroptimist Club of Humboldt County to Soroptimist International of Eureka. Then came SI/Crescent City, January 8, 1954; SI/Arcata , January 9, 1984; SI/Humboldt Bay, May 26, 1986; and SI/McKinleyville, November 11, 1997. Additionally members from Eureka were involved in the charter of SI/Big Foot Country (Willow Creek), July 22, 1982, which was within SI of Arcata’s boundaries then for that was during the years that each club had an exclusive territory.

Numerous Region Conferences have been held in Eureka during all these years. Most recently in 1979 and in 1985, when the exclusive boundaries for club areas were eliminated. There was a great celebration as each club of Founder Region tossed their boundary file into the fireplace at the Eureka Inn. In 1991 was the memorable experience of hosting a conference in San Ramon. Cars were filled with center pieces for every meal which has since been discontinues. Our club has recently co-hosted the 2018 Founder Region Conference along with SI/Eel River Valley and SI/Humboldt Bay.  This club has been hostess to numerous District Meetings and Leadership Meetings throughout the years.

Memorial Grove of Founder Region has always been an integral part of the effort and dedication of Eureka’s membership. They were a part of the initial drive in 1947 to purchase the 40 acre grove north of Orick at Prairie Creek, now in the Redwood National Forest in conjunction with the Save the Redwoods League and Southwestern Region. The final balance of money was raised when this club took a blooming rhododendron plant to region conference, selling tickets for the opportunity to take the plant home. It was their idea to have an annual Memorial Service at the grove to recognize those Soroptimists who had died in the prior year. Through the years they have supervised for Founder Region the maintenance of the granite marker with the niche in which was kept the scrolls of names and the annual ceremony to add the latest names. Following extension malicious damage to the marker a in the 1990’s, the niche has been sealed and the record of names is maintained in a Memorial Book and on the Founder Region Website.

In 1990 this club received special recognition from the Federation Board for our Public Relations effort with the Safeway grocery bags, emblazoned with the Soroptimist emblem, information about reasons for membership and a telephone number for contact, used in all Safeway grocery stores in California, Oregon and Nevada.

A more recent project was the Women’s Health Fair. Through this effort many major and minor community Health agencies came together to offer counsel and information on health issues specialized to the women of this area.  They offered free on-site breast exams for a limited number donated by a local health professional and referrals for free mammograms at the local hospital. These procedures undoubtedly saved the life of several through alerting these individuals to life threatening conditions that could endanger them.

In cooperation with the Redwood Community Action Agency, there was an ongoing support program for Abused Women and children in a Shelter Home situation. Probably the most inspiring part was the development of a fully stocked, specially decorated playroom for the children at the center. Small quilts were made to give to these children that they could keep when they moved to independent housing. More recently has been the support of their program of Youth Service Bureau home for homeless teens.

One recent year the first Teen Leadership Conference was held for teen age girls in conjunction with other clubs of District V and the Girl Scouts of Cascade Region. We held our own two-day conference entitled “FemPower” in 2014 and encouraged local Soroptimist clubs to sponsor girls from their area.
Through the years the Eureka club has sponsored Venture Clubs for younger women not eligible for Soroptimist membership, not yet being in a management level position. Additionally “S” Club has always been an integral part of the emphasis to encourage the high school girls to become involved in community service. We sponsored an “S” Club for many years at Eureka High School which finally disbanded in the 2000’s for lack of staff volunteering to be the club’s advisor.

For over thirty years this club cooperated with the Salvation Army in both the Kettle Drive and the Giving Tree program that gathered Christmas gifts for children in need and adults in the Care Home of the community. About thirty years ago the club sponsored three performances of the Pickle Family Circus at Redwood Acres. Another time there was a Breakfast served at the Masonic Temple on Sunday of the Jazz Festival. The club sponsored a “Combined Service Club” luncheon for many years, in which the service clubs in the area met for fellowship and an inspirational speaker to celebrate the spirit of service in our community.

There was the year during which the members made stuffed miniature wallabies to finance the purchase of a pair of wallabies to add to the Sequoia Park Zoo. Also in the playground at Sequoia Park is a large swing set purchased by the club and dedicated to past president Claire Guthrie.
One of the long term projects was the Dental Fund, administered by the Head Nurse of Eureka City Schools to provide emergency dental care to the children of the local schools.

Later came the Bookie Program, developed by Helen Reid,  that prepared for some twenty five years, boxes of books from the City and County Library which members then delivered to home bound persons, picked up a week or two later, exchanging them for a fresh collection.
For several years the club administered a Shoe Fund providing new shoes for children in Eureka City Schools, included were new socks as well. This had been funded by the Humboldt Area Foundation and the McLean Foundation; additionally, Mervyn’s store facilitated the service and offered special discounts on purchases.

For many years, annually during public Schools Week, the club would hold their regular meeting at one of the local Elementary Schools, eat with the children in the school cafeteria and hear a program about current education. It was a very natural thing to do for our members included the Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Nene Collver; Child Welfare and Attendance Supervisor, Alice Kjer; Head Nurse, Alice Barnes; and Elementary principal, Catherine Burns.

For many years the regular club meetings were always in the Simpson Room of the Eureka Inn with a “U” shaped table arrangement. Some members had sovereign rights to particular places in the room. The rest of the seats were available to everyone. You could take attendance by the empty chairs.
In 1988, the Fiftieth Anniversary of the charting of this club was celebrated with a gala evening at the Eureka Inn. All of the region officers and directors were present as well as representatives from many other clubs. A large number of past presidents, no longer members, attended. Red roses were everywhere symbolizing the long and active life of this group. As the original charter had long since vanished, a replacement in the same style as used in 1938 was arranged for by the chair of the region Membership Committee. Unfortunately the signatures are replicas.

Over the years, our club has had its fair share of region officers. Kate Burns was Founder Region Governor from 1978-1980.  In 1993 Marilyn Hofstetter transferred to the Eureka club from SI/Whittier, where she had served as the SIA President from 1980-1982 and SI President from 1987-1989. Several members have been District V Directors over the years: Dawn Mooreland, Donna Ayres, Elaine Reed, Kris Chorbi and Dyann O’Brien, many of whom served for two terms. Most recently, Kris Chorbi was elected Founder Region Governor-elect and will be Governor from 2020-2022, in which Soroptimist will celebrate it's 100th Anniversary.

In 2013, SI/Eureka celebrated its 75th Anniversary with a reception at the Warfinger Building.  The Humboldt County clubs that were charted by the Eureka club each had a display highlighting their club’s activities and events. Rex Bohn and Virginia Bass presented a proclamation from the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors congratulating SI/Eureka for their many years of service to the community.

In 2018, we had another celebration for our 80th Anniversary at the Eureka Women’s Club. Several members dressed in 1930’s fashion and hats of that era were present for photo opportunities. The installation of the 2018-2019 Board of Directors was conducted by incoming Governor, Sylvia Crafton from Guam, the first governor from District VI.  President Elaine Reed’s theme for the year was “Making the World a Better Place”.
"National Head of Soroptimist Club To Visit Eureka"  

"National Head of Soroptimist Club To Visit Eureka"

The Humboldt Times - Eureka, California  

November 30, 1939
Within the next ten days, the Soroptimist Club of Eureka will be honored by a visit from Mrs. Anna E. Sprott, national president of the American Federation of Soroptimist clubs, this visit having been made possible through the efforts of May Pettengill and Clara Duncan, delegates from the Humboldt County Soroptimist Club to the southwestern regional conference, held last Saturday at the St. Francis hotel in San Francisco.
The American federation consists of Soroptimist clubs in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Hawaiian Islands.  Mrs. Sprott’s home is in Vancouver, Canada, and she is a charming woman of unusual wit and poise. Although many invitations were extended to the official to visit other clubs on the Pacific Coast, she accepted the invitation to Eureka because the local club is a new one, and having heard so much of the wonders of the Redwood Empire, she wished to make a personal tour of this locality.  The Eureka Club has already begun to formulate plans for the entertainment of the visitor.
Over 300 women from the Pacific coast states, the Rocky Mountain area, Canada, Mexico and Hawaii were in attendance at this outstanding conference last Saturday. In honor of the Honolulu club, which was only organized two months ago by Mrs. Sprott, the theme of the morning and afternoon was that of Hawaii. All attending members wore Hawaiian leis and were presented with favors suggestive of the Islands.
The two Humboldt  women were hostesses a the brilliant banquet held at the St. Francis hotel for Mrs. Mary Stewart, who wrote the Collect which is used by the majority of women’s clubs over the United States, and Mrs. Francis Raymond, a well known personality of the business world, who also is well known in Humboldt county. Mrs. Stewart is now national chairman of vocational research and guidance of the Business and Professional clubs.
Mrs. Pettengill and Mrs. Duncan also attended the installation and presentation of charter ceremonies of the Soroptimist Club at Vallejo, the Humboldt club sending a beautiful redwood gavel and stand to the new club. This was presented by Mrs. Pettengill.