Soroptimist International of Vista and North County Inland Awards $24,000 to Seven Recipients

Vicki Gonzalez, 2016 SIV/NCI Live Your Dream Award Winner

Soroptimist International of Vista President Dee Dee Timmons and Live Your Dream award winner Vicki Gonzalez at awards gala on Feb. 27, 2016

San Marcos, CA, March 2016—One single mother, four local non-profits and two nursing students were honored at Soroptimist International of Vista and North County Inland’s annual Soroptimist Women’s Award Gala (S.W.A.G.) held Saturday evening, February 27, at Palomar Estates East Clubhouse in San Marcos.

About 90 guests, including Vista Mayor Judy Ritter, walked the red carpet to the Clubhouse, which was decorated Academy-Awards style. The $35 per ticket gala included dinner and wine, music, a fashion show with designer dresses from Vista’s Garment Gourmet resale shop, an Academy Awards-related trivia quiz for prizes, a $250 “Money Bouquet” raffle, and a Dessert Dash with tables bidding on the right to pick first from an array of desserts made or donated by members.

The featured event was the presentation of the Club’s “Live Your Dream” Award to Vicki Gonzalez of Escondido, a single mother who lost her first child, Jonathan, to neuroblastoma cancer in 2010 when he was only 4 years old. As presenter Judy Gregorie explained, the Live Your Dream award assists women like Vicki who have overcome great obstacles and are the primary source of financial support for their families by giving them the resources they need to improve their education and employment prospects. Gonzalez, who has a young daughter to support, was awarded a $3000 cash award.

“I understand that I may not be able to control everything that happens in my life, but what I can control is how I handle things and the choices I make,” said Vicki in her initial application. “Going through the hardship of my son’s suffering and his death made me grateful for the fact that I am alive, which is an opportunity Jonathan will never be able to experience. I live in his memory,” she said.

Currently attending Palomar College, Vicki will be transferring to Cal State San Marcos in the fall of 2016 to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Her eventual goal is to earn a Masters and Ph.D. and become a licensed Child Psychologist. “As a single mother and a college student, the Live Your Dream award will give me the additional burst of courage and determination I need to keep on striving for my dream,” she said. She also becomes eligible to apply for additional cash awards at the Soroptimist District level.

Over $11,000 from Soroptimist’s Service Fund was then distributed to four grant applicants. This year’s recipients were: Boys and Girls Club of Vista for their “Smart Moves” program; Leap to Success for their “Leap to Confidence” program, Welcome Home Ministries for women transitioning from incarceration, and Casa de Amparo for their “Creating Future of Hope for Pregnant & Parenting Foster Youth” program.

The Club’s Foundation, a separate entity established as a testamentary trust when long-time Soroptimist Lucille Strachan passed away in 1983, then awarded $5,000 apiece to graduate nursing students Christine Dukovich and Sasha Luecke. As presenter Runa Gunnars explained, the Foundation seeks women applicants who are pursuing graduate degrees with majors of English or medical science. Dukovich and Luecke, both UCSD grads, are pursuing their Masters in Nursing degrees at USC and both do an impressive amount of volunteer work as well. The women were picked from five qualified applicants to receive this year’s award.

Gala Committee members this year were Pat Origlieri and Assly Sayyar (co-Chairs), Dyana Preti, Karen Thompson, Cherie Wilson, Catherine Manis, Nelly Jarrous and Lani Beltrano. Desserts were donated by Little Cakes of Vista, Sherry Luz, Jennifer Luz-Olson, Dyana Preti, Jackie Piro Huyck, Judy Gregorie, Kaye Van Nevel, Lani Beltrano, Cherie Wilson, Ardis McAndrew, Catherine Manis, Thoralinda Soyland and Dr. Marge Swacker.

ABOUT SOROPTIMISTS INTERNATIONAL OF VISTA & NORTH COUNTY INLAND– Soroptimist International of Vista and North County Inland (SI-Vista/NCI) was chartered in Vista on March 23, 1953. The Club recently changed its name to include “North County Inland”, reflecting its wider membership base.

We are a dynamic group of professional business women in Vista, San Marcos, Escondido and Fallbrook who seek to make a difference in our communities through offering scholarships and grants to local charities and by raising awareness and educating the public about issues affecting women and girls, such as domestic violence and human trafficking. Funds are raised through our annual salad luncheon for the public, Scrip, and other group and personal projects.

For 63 years in service, we have been committed to helping women and girls, protecting the environment, education in the fields of health, economic and social development, leadership development, fellowship and diversity.

SI-Vista/NCI holds luncheon meetings the first Friday each month in Vista and the third Friday of each month in San Marcos. For more information, see our website at or email us at

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