2019 Women of Distinction Award Winners!

Communicating patiently, volunteering broadly, going above and beyond, and always making a difference for the community,” describe each of this year’s three Soroptimist Women of Distinction Award winners: Graciela Gomez, Rachel Larive and Shelley Toon Lindberg.

Please help Soroptimist honor these three dedicated local women at a Happy Hour award reception on Wednesday, May 29, 5:30- 7:00 pm, in the Columbia Room of the Best Western Hood River Inn. Tickets are $20, and include entry, appetizers, non-alcoholic beverages, and a no-host bar. Purchase tickets by Sunday, May 26 at Eventbrite.com, Waucoma Bookstore or by calling June Knudson, 541-760-6050.

For over 40 years, Soroptimist International of Hood River has, with the help of community nominations, honored women whose professional or volunteer work have inspired others with their unsung dedication to make Hood River County a better place for everyone.

Graciela Gomez
In nominating Graciela Gomez, Sandi Scheinberg wrote, “I feel I could write volumes about Graciela’s contributions to the quality of life in the Gorge. Graciela has been dedicated to the betterment of the Hood River Valley for over 24 years. She has comforted many who have felt the burden of personal and economic struggles, even while facing her own.”

Graciela stands up courageously for her principles and justice, despite imperfect English and regardless of potential backlash. She speaks at city council meetings and meets with congressional leaders about systemic inequities faced by our local immigrant community.

She represents Saint Mary’s Church with Gorge Ecumenical Ministries, focusing on Somos Uno/Building Community Connections. Graciela advocates for the Latino community through Latinos en Accion and the Mayor’s Latino Advisory Council in Hood River. All of this, while lovingly tending to the needs of her family, selling fruit at her fruit stand in Cascade Locks, handing free peaches to Pacific Crest Trail hikers, cleaning houses, and engaging in numerous neighborly acts of kindness.

Adds Vicky Stifter, “Graciela is one of the most passionate, powerful and courageous women that I have ever known. She is a visionary, devoted member of our community and an inspiring role model for women.”

Rachel Larive

Nominator Linda Chamberlain described Rachel Larive as “a 78-year-old retired ICU nurse who volunteers to help hundreds of aging people understand their Medicare insurance choices and rights. Rachel grew up in a small town in the deep South, and her medical work spans the globe from Guam to Saudi Arabia. Moving to Hood River, she became a SHIBA volunteer and works almost daily, seeing clients at the Hood River Valley Adult Center and in their homes. A kind and gentle woman, Rachel cares about those who get lost in the paperwork.”

Volunteers in Action Coordinator Britta Willson added: “I have rarely worked with somebody so passionate about their volunteer work. Rachel goes out of her way to improve her community through her work with the Aging in the Gorge Alliance Steering Committee and the Dementia Friendly Action Team.”

Amy Mallett, Executive Director of the Hood River Valley Adult Center, wrote, “Rachel goes above and beyond her volunteer duties serving our community’s most vulnerable older adults, and never shies away from advocating for those in difficult situations. Whether it be a ride to the grocery store, or help with a difficult situation, she displays remarkable patience and understanding. Rachel embodies everything this award stands for.”

Shelley Toon Lindberg

Nominator Peggy Dills Kelter wrote, “Shelley Toon Lindberg finds ways to bring art and artful experiences into the lives of all of us, from hundreds of lucky preschoolers who call her ‘teacher,’ to readers who interact with books through beautifully designed Little Free Libraries.

“For 20+ years, she has been one of the Columbia Gorge’s most ardent supporters of creative experiences. The heart of her work is in art-making and learning opportunities made available to dozens of artists, hundreds of teachers, and thousands of students.”

As Director of Arts in Education of the Gorge, Shelley facilitates mosaic projects, digital storytelling classes, and many other art experiences in Gorge schools.

She is also highly respected outside of the Gorge, working with schools in Alaska and Hawaii. Shelley has a passion for connecting children from indigenous cultures and sparking their interest in being voices for preserving our environment. Students are always successful when working with Shelley. She is especially talented in her ability to empower girls and women to feel successful with technology and art.

Shelley is, above all, a kind and generous woman who finds ways to be supportive of ideas and people. Where others would say, “That won’t work,” Shelley says, “We can do that.”

Community members, and there are many, who have been touched by the energy and spirit of Graciela Gomez, Rachel Larive, and Shelley Toon Lindberg, are encouraged to help Soroptimist honor them with your presence at the May 29 Happy Hour award celebration.

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Nominations Needed for Women of Distinction Awards





Is there a woman in your business, civic or personal life who has made a distinctive difference in the quality of life in Hood River County or in the lives of local women and girls?

Soroptimist International of Hood River is asking individuals, businesses and organizations to help honor a woman in their midst whose professional or volunteer work qualifies her as a “Woman of Distinction.” An awards “happy hour” is scheduled for Wednesday, May 29, 5:30 p.m. at the Best Western Hood River Inn.

“Our community is full of strong, capable women who have shaped our county’s culture since its beginning,” says Soroptimist President Denise Rehse Watson. “Soroptimist has been recognizing and celebrating distinctive women in our community for over 40 years. We know we will never run out of worthy nominees. Because our larger community benefits from the work of these outstanding citizens, we ask everyone’s help in making sure they are recognized.”

Nomination forms, guidelines and a list of previous winners are available at Hood River County Libraries or by calling June Knudson, 541-760-6050. (You may also download the forms shown below this article.) Nominations need to include all activities that show the nominee’s dedication, effectiveness and vision, along with three letters of support. Nominations deadline is Friday, April 26.

Winners and their nominators will be notified in early May and their names announced in the Hood River News, on Soroptimist social media and on local radio stations.

Soroptimist of Hood River, part of Soroptimist International, is an energetic women’s service organization dedicated to empowering the lives of women and girls in local communities and throughout the world. To learn more about Soroptimist International, go to www.soroptimist.org. For more information about Soroptimist Hood River, find us on Facebook or contact June Knudson, 541-760-6050.


Nominate a Woman of Distinction for 2019

Who is Eligible?
Women who have contributed to the vitality of our community, supported diversity and/or improved the lives of women or girls through her professional and personal life.

Deadline Nominations must be received by Friday, April 26, 2019

Notification of winner
Nominators and winners will be notified on or before May 3, 2019. Winners need to be available for a photography appointment that weekend or the beginning of the next week.

Awards Celebration
Winners will be celebrated at a “Happy Hour” celebration in Wednesday, May 29, 2019, at the Best Western Hood River Inn Columbia Room. Tickets will be available after May 15th.

Have Questions?
Call Jean Harmon, 541-207-4226 or June Knudson, 541-760-6050

Nominee Information


Address______________________________ City_____________________________
(day) _____________________(evening) _______________________
E-mail _______________________________________________________

Nominator Information


Organization (if applicable)_________________________________________


Phone (day) ________________________(evening) _____________________

E-mail ________________________________________________________

This application and the narrative you write are the only way that our panel of judges can know your candidate and compare them to other nominees.

Narrative Submission Prompts

1. Describe the nominee’s contribution to the vitality of the community

                 2. Describe the nominee’s support of diversity and inclusion

                 3. Describe how the nominee improves the lives of women and girls

                 4. Describe the nominee’s effectiveness and vision

                 5. Tell one story about the nominee

                 6. Provide two or three letters of support


MAIL TO: SIHR (Soroptimist International of Hood River)

                  P.O. Box 51

                  Hood River, Oregon 97031

DROP OFF: Call Jean Harmon, 541-207-4226 to arrange nomination drop-off

Thank you for helping to honor the distinctive women who make a difference in our community.

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Jamie McLeod-Skinner, the Democratic 2018 candidate for US House of Representatives, Oregon District 2, will be in Hood River Friday, March 8, to keynote and participate in a panel discussion on gender-balanced leadership’s effect on our workplaces, our local communities and the world.

The free event, titled, “Balance for Better: How gender-balanced leadership can improve our communities and our world,” is scheduled for International Women’s Day, March 8, 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. at the Hood River County Library. It is hosted by Soroptimist International of Hood River and the Library, and is sponsored by Copper West Real Estate.

Following the keynote address, Jamie will join a panel of five dynamic local women leaders to further the discussion on a more gender-balanced world. Soroptimist and the Library are honored to welcome:

• Dr. Marta Yera Cronin, President, Columbia Gorge Community College
• Jessica Metta, Executive Director, Gorge Technology Alliance and Hoof River City    Council member
• Jeanie Vieira, RN, CEO, Providence Hood River
• Christina Mercer, Director of Strategy, Insitu
• Anna Williams, Oregon District 52 Representative and college instructor.

Audience members will be invited to submit questions to the panelists upon admission to the event.

McLeod-Skinner, whose background includes engineering, planning and law, continues to use her approach of building bridges between people separated by politics and the urban-rural divide, to focus on developing solutions for core issues, such as healthcare, education, economic development, and natural resource management.

The first International Women’s Day was held in 1909 in recognition of the 1908 U.S. Garment Workers strike, but has grown over the last hundred and ten years as a day to recognize the needs and accomplishments of women and girls throughout the world. Soroptimist International is a global volunteer organization that improves the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. The Hood River group welcomes visitors and new members.

“Balance for Better” is free and open to the public. Coffee, tea and light refreshments will be available.

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