Pilot story and photos by Marge Woodfin

Soroptimists International of Brookings held its annual Making a Difference Awards Luncheon recently to honor six women and one man.

Awards presented include Women of Distinction, Advancing the Status of Women, Vocational Technical (Vo-Tech, Women Helping Women, Women's Opportunity, and to the one man and his wife, Phil and Olivia Abbott, Community Service.

The first two presentations were those that include scholarship funds to help women who are returning to classes to improve their career opportunities

Dottie Anacleto presented the Vo-Tech $500 scholarship award to Angelika Kunselman, a woman who is hitting the school books again at Southwestern Oregon Community College for a career change to accounting. Kunselman expressed gratitude for the financial help and encouragement.

She said that when she discovered her anticipated grant award was much less than expected, she was worried about making ends meet, and this award will help her continue with her education.

Carol Johnson presented the Women's Opportunity Award and $800 scholarship to Candace Burt. Burt told the women that she moved to Brookings 15 months ago andquot;for the safety of my son.andquot;

She added, andquot;It was a big challenge trying to find a job.andquot; But, with persistence, she did find job as a bus person, and is now delighted to be working on education for a career choice of her own for the first time in years.

Lorraine Gordon presented the Community Service Award to Phil Abbott, who accepted it on behalf of himself and his wife, Olivia, who was unable to attend. Gordon explained that the Community Service Award goes to those who have helped make the community a better place to live.

Included the many ways the Abbotts have made those contributions is their continued work to make Nature's Coastal Holiday light show happen each year, by organizing and installing lights and signs, supplying cookies and cider in the gazebo, being on had to greet visitors, and cleaning up and putting away.

Gordon also explained that the Abbotts include neighborhood children to help because they believe that if you include the youth in helping activities, you will find them helpful and not destructive.

As Abbott accepted the award he said, andquot;I can't say anything. I just follow orders.andquot;

As Gordon presented the Women Helping Women Award to Betty Jean Waite, she announced that the Northwestern Region of Soroptimist International's theme for this term is T.E.A.M., Together Everyone Achieves More.

Waite andquot;has lived this theme her whole life.andquot; Waite a teacher of seventh and eighth grade math and physical education for 37 years, not only encouraged her students in academic and physical education activities, saying, andquot;I knew you could do it,andquot; she also andquot;made the best cookies ? and never skimped on the chocolate chips.andquot;

Waite continues to attend school sporting events, and continues to serve the community by serving Meals-On-Wheels, in the garden club and as a deacon at Brookings Presbyterian Church.

Waite shared some of that positive attitude with the women, telling about the scholarship fund she has set up, and encouraging them to andquot;forget about oneself and help others.andquot;

When Marilyn Wood received the Advancing the Status of Women Award, it sounded as though she had taken a page out of Waite's book, as another who believes in service to others.

She was acclaimed for serving with Volunteers In Police Service (VIPS), Meals-On-Wheels, and other activities. As she accepted the award she said when she read an article about VIPs needing help she went down to offer her services, expecting to do a little office work, but found herself riding around on a police beat.

andquot;One great thing about volunteering, you certainly get to meet nice people,andquot; she said.

Mary McCourt received the Woman of Distinction Award. The presentation, written by her ex-daughter-in-law, Kathy McCourt, lauding the retired registered nurse for her years of caring service to others.

According to that presentation, the now retired, Mary McCourt, is still called by many for advice on aches and pains, and not only keeps her lawn looking like a andquot;golf courseandquot; but also mows the neighbors' grass, trims trees, takes dinner to sick friends, and makes rounds to visit friends in the nursing homes or hospitals.

andquot;She just can't stand elderly people being neglected. She tries to brighten their days.andquot;

Since retirement she has become andquot;Grandma Maryandquot; to six grandchildren and andquot;Aunt Maryandquot; to other family and friends. andquot;She cares for all of humanity and does what she can to make this community a better place,andquot; according to her ex-daughter-in-law, who still calls her andquot;mom.andquot;

According to the opening introduction by Brookings Soroptimists President Aleta Mankamyer, the international organization's name is a coined word meaning andquot;best for women,andquot; with projects that support Limbs for Life, Doctors Without Borders, building schools and providing supplies and teachers in India, landmine removal, anti-AIDS education and grants to women for education and setting up cottage industries to support families.

In its 45th years, the main purpose of the Brookings club is to provide scholarships, to support other community projects to improve education, health, and human rights. The club supports and participates in Safety City, the semi-annual Beach Clean-up, Oasis House and a program at Kalmiopsis Elementary School to provide needed health and hygiene materials to students in need.

The group meets for lunch every Wednesday at Smuggler's Cove restaurant at the Port of Brookings Harbor.

Anyone interested in additional information, may phone Lorraine Gordon at (541) 469-3975.