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Contributions that count

Six local women were honored Tuesday by Soroptimist International of Huntington Beach for changing the lives of women at their annual Women of Distinction awards luncheon at the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort.

The Making a Difference for Women awards are presented to those who have made outstanding achievements in their professional, business or volunteer activities as they relate to the Soroptimist International programs of service, Event Chairwoman Nouha Hreish said.

Founded in 1921 in Oakland, Soroptimist International is a women’s service organization with nearly 100,000 members in 127 countries.

“Our mission is to inspire women to dream, think and be their very best,” chapter President Denise Sonnenberg said.

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The luncheon also was a 45th birthday party of sorts for the local chapter; birthday cakes formed each table’s centerpiece.

Two hundred and eighty people were on hand to celebrate both the winners and the organization, which supports local projects like Alzheimer’s and cancer research and services; children’s homes and crisis centers; and children’s literacy and after-school programs.

Soroptimist International also works on international projects like providing dental care in third-world countries, malaria relief and assisting the women survivors of war.

This year’s winners were Orange Coast Memorial Hospital chief executive Marcia Manker, honored for Advancing the Status of Women in Health; Marilyn MacAllister, awarded for Community Volunteer Development; former Huntington Beach Union High School District Supt. Susan Roper, lately of the Huntington Beach Leadership Academy, for education; the Rev. Mary Walton of Interval House, honored for Women Helping Women; Sonnenberg, who was named the 2009 Soroptimist of the Year; and a surprise Centennial honoree, Chamber of Commerce President Joyce Riddell.

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Manker was described as a people person who has helped make her hospital one of the top-ranked places to work in the county, and is known for ensuring that women have a strong leadership presence in her facility.

For an introduction of MacAllister, who served for decades at the Ocean View School District and has volunteered at many charitable organizations, words like “uncommon graciousness,” “compassionate” and “kindhearted” were culled from her friends.

Roper was lauded for her work to give women and minorities a proper education in math and science, and to ensure their equal employment at the school districts she has served.

Walton, who has written about and worked to prevent domestic violence, has been involved with Interval House, a haven for victims of domestic violence, since its inception nearly 30 years ago; she now teaches faith leaders about violence intervention.


Reporter CANDICE BAKER may be reached at (714) 966-4631 or at candice.baker@latimes.com.


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