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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