Women of Distinction
Soroptimist Honors a “Woman of Distinction” for Fifth Year at Awards Ceremony
Article by Patty Petrone Photos by Debra Todd
Soroptimist International of Pompano Beach held its annual Awards Ceremony on March 28th at Galuppi’s Restaurant. The event was sponsored by Florida Shores Bank. Each year, the Pompano Beach Chapter honors local women who have made a significant difference in their own lives and in the lives of others.
1) The Woman of Distinction Award honors a woman who, through her professional or personal efforts, is making an extraordinary impact in her community and inspiring others to follow in her footsteps. This was the 5th year Soroptimist of Pompano Beach honored these amazing women, and the four previous recipients were also invited to the event – Margaret White (2008), Gail Farkas (2009), Hazel Ambrister (2010), and Michelle Greene (2011).
This year’s honoree was Laura Jones.
Laura Suihkonen Jones became a caregiver for her husband, Jay Jones, when he was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2006 at the age of 50. Jay was initially diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) but his symptoms persisted despite medication. Three and a half years later, Jay was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s. Five years after diagnosis, Jay was placed in residential care. Because of this, Laura struggles to meet the high financial cost of Alzheimer’s and is forced to find many creative ways to balance her family’s budget, including selling a home owned by her family for over 50 years.
The Jones’ story has been featured on ABC’s “World News with Charles Gibson,” “World News with Diane Sawyer.” She authored a piece for Maria Shiver’s “Shriver Report: A Women’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s.” Laura was the recipient of the 2011 Caregiver of the Year award in Beverly Hills in March of 2011, and the Maureen Reagan Outstanding Advocate of the Year award, presented in Washington DC during May of 2011.
2) The Women’s Opportunity Award Program is the primary Service Project for Soroptimist International. Each year, the Pompano Beach chapter awards $1500 scholarships to motivated women who are the primary financial supporters of their families and are seeking to improve their lives by gaining additional skills, training and education. The 2012 recipients are Nicolle Joseph, Jamine Mohrland, and Mianca Mclendon.
Nicolle Joseph is enrolled at Broward College and is working on her Dental Hygienist Degree. She emigrated from Haiti to the US in 2001 and is married and the proud mother of 2 teenage children. Once she adjusted to our country, she studied for and passed (with excellent grades) the Certified Dental Assistant Test. She then secured a job as a Dental Assistant in the Periodontal Clinic at Nova Southeastern University, where she worked for 5 years. During this time, she also attended school and finished all the prerequisite courses required for the Dental Hygiene Program at Broward.
Jamine Mohrland is enrolled at Broward College and is working on her AS degree in Emergency Management – the process of preparing for, mitigating, responding to and recovering from any emergency including hurricanes, floods, fires, toxic spills and acts of nature or terrorism. She is also the single mom of a teenage son. She was the Commercial Property Manager for ONE employer for 18 years when Hurricane Wilma struck in October 2005, and then having to deal with displaced tenants, looters, and city officials, but lost her job soon after. She struggled for the next 2 years working temporary jobs until in 2008, when she was hired by the State of Florida to handle FEMA claims. She started school full-time at Broward College last summer.
Mianca Mclendon is a student at Broward College and is finishing up the pre-requisite courses before entering their RN program. In addition, she works full time as the Head Medical Assistant at The Kidney Group of South Florida. She is a single Mom raising her 12 year-old son. She is very motivated and has been working hard to hold everything together as an employee, a student and a single mother. She expects to complete her RN requirements and be ready to take the State exam in 2013. She is so well respected at The Kidney Group that they have already offered her a job as a Registered Nurse once she completes her education!
3) The Violet Richardson Award is a recognition program for young women ages 14-17 who have had significant and noteworthy accomplishments as a volunteer within their communities or schools. Each year, Soroptimist of Pompano Beach presents a $500 award to each honoree.
The 2012 recipients are Olivia Valdes and Kayla Loochkartt.
Olivia Valdes is 17 and a Senior at North Broward Prep. She has always loved WORDS and the power of language. Olivia believes that every child needs literature as a tool for wondering, questioning and understanding. She realized that many students in the community did not have the resources and support to, not only develop a love of books, but in some cases to not even achieve true literacy. As a Sophomore, she founded “Hope Through Literature,” a student-run volunteer organization dedicated to promoting literature. They have monthly mentoring sessions with the children at Florence Fuller Child Development Center where they present interesting activities geared to develop reading skills and ignite a passion for literature. They have also raised thousands of donated books through book drives.
Kayla Loochkartt is 17 and a Senior at Pompano High. Kayla strongly believes that if children live near the beach, it is imperative that they learn not only how to swim, but also the safety techniques often needed in an aquatic environment. Through her high school years, she has been an active volunteer with Pompano Beach Ocean Rescue Summer Program. The program is open to kids ages 9 -17 and the volunteers assist in teaching first aide, CPR, swimming and lifesaving methods along with focusing on physical fitness. Because of her dedication and good work as a volunteer, Kayla was hired by the City of Pompano Beach last summer, as a Jr. Life Guard. She worked on the beach but continued teaching the kids in the program as well. Kayla also volunteers at the Bit-By-Bit Therapeutic Riding Center. Its mission is to heal, educate, enrich, inspire and empower children and adults with special needs through the “magic” of therapeutic horseback riding.
Soroptimist of Pompano Beach is very proud of its outstanding recipients and wishes them the very best in all their future endeavors!