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Soroptimists honor ‘Women of Distinction’

Nov. 7 event slated for Dottie Nelson, Becki Rawson, Kim Yasui

Their accomplishments are awe-inspiring but their modesty might keep most people from knowing about their impact in Hood River County.

Three women will soon have their good deeds brought to light through a local women’s club whose name says it all: The name, Soroptimist, literally means “best for women,” and that’s what the organization strives to achieve.

Soroptimist International of Hood River has selected the 2012 winners of its annual Women of Distinction award: Dotty Nelson of Parkdale, Becki Rawson of Hood River and Kim Yasui of Mt. Hood.

The trio will be recognized at a luncheon in their honor on Wednesday, Nov. 7, beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Soroptimist International is an organization for business and professional women who, according to its mission, “work to improve the lives of women and girls, in local areas and throughout the world ... with community-based and international projects.”

In Hood River County, S.I. members fundraise to offer several program goals: to provide grants to local adult- and college-entry-age women seeking to increase their education or skills; to support new mothers; to end sex-trafficking worldwide and to end domestic violence.

“We support Helping Hands Against Violence, New Parent Services and “Gutsy Girls” anti-bullying programs for elementary school-age girls,” said Barbara Young, SI member in Hood River. “To pay for these efforts, we raise funds in several ways: the Wine, Women and WOW! business women’s networking event in September, Harvest Fest quilt raffle tickets sales, and through Lunafest, an inspiring festival of short films written, produced and directed by women and focused on women’s issues — set to screen in March at Columbia Center for the Arts.”

The three women selected for this year’s Women of Distinction awards exemplify the spirit of personal responsibility, diligence, effectiveness and compassion the organization hopes to promote, and have all worked over many years to improve the lives of others in our community.

The event will be held at the Best Western Hood River Inn Gorge Room and is open to the public. Proceeds will be used to continue Soroptimist programs for women and girls in the community. Tickets are $18 and available at Waucoma Bookstore or by calling Jean Harmon, 541-207-4226.

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Dotty Nelson, according to her nominator, Avalon Totten-Denton, “likes helping people be healthy and she is good at it.” During her nearly 40 years in the Hood River Valley, Nelson has enjoyed a fulfilling physical therapy career, taught childbirth education, works at the Parkdale FISH Food Bank and cooks and serves senior meals at Mt. Hood Town Hall.

As a Faith in Action Providence Community Caregiver, coordinator Jill Rowland says, “Dotty has logged nearly 1,000 hours with us. She has maintained an ongoing relations with a woman in her late 90s and was a source of light and joy for another care receiver who lived with chronic pain.”

A lover of all music, Nelson helped start and has sung for many years with Sweet Adelines women’s barbershop chorus, now called Harmony of the Gorge, where, according to Judy Beckman, chorus director, “Dotty’s gracious personality plus her attention to detail allows us to feel confident in the arrangements she has made for us to sing at festivals, events and seasonal performances.” She is also a key member of Jamba Marimba, a local all-female band playing joyful music from around the world.

Nelson’s most recent distinction was the donating one of her kidneys to a dear friend who had developed kidney disease and became dependent on dialysis and on the kidney donation waiting list with 90,000 other people.

Totten-Denton says, “She investigated to see if she might be a good match. After months of medical exams and a psychosocial evaluation, Dotty discovered that not olny have they been compatible and neighbors, friends for 38 years — she was also a compatible kidney donor. Dotty now lives with one kidney and has given an incredible gift to her friend.

“Dotty makes a differnce every day in our community by approaching life with intelligence, curiosity and a passion for helping,” Totten-Denton says.

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Kim Yasui has taught, inspired, cajoled and been a spiritual force at Mid Vally Elementary School since 1994. According to her nominator and fellow English as a Second Language Program staff member, Peggy Dills Kelter, “Mid Valley is a high-poverty, Title 1 school with a majority Hispanic population. Kim has made it her mission to ensure that every child at our school (regardless of socioeconomic status, native language or family dynamic) has the opportunity to pursue greatness.

“Though she is a tough teacher, demanding quality work from her students, she is equally beloved by them all.”

Yasui has been responsible for the Odell Little League and running the Mid Valley after-school program, Project PM.

Mid Valley Principal Dennis McCauley says, “Kim has all the skills of many great teachers, but she does not simply teach. Kim changes the lives of the students, families and staff she works with.

“Over the years, assuring her students’ success has involved writing and receiving many grants to provide programs andmaterials for our students and their families, finding clothing, housing, emergency food, and connecting families with legal and financial assistance,” said McCauley.

“Kim continues to make a difference day-in and day-out in our school and in the community. This is not something Kim works at doing; this is something Kim is — a woman who distinguishes herself in serving others.”

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Becki Rawson, according to her nominator Julie Raefield-Gobbo, “accomplishes much for our community, while keeping the focus on others. She brings love, joy, hope and spiritual depth to the world around her through hard work, diligence, vision and compassion.”

Rawson is a nurse practitioner who has worked at several health facilities in Hood River. Along with helping to deliver hundreds of community babies, her calming spirit served many a distressed family during visits to the emergency room.

Her volunteer work in the community includes serving as the longtime coordinator of the Christmas Giving Tree project through St. Mary’s Catholic Church, ensuring hundreds of children and families could share in holiday cheer when their poverty might otherwise have left them wanting.

“Rawson has a special gift in building community support for long-term projects like the Giving Tree,” said Raefield-Gobbo. “She also helped found and operate an annual summer camp for low-income children at her family’s property. The camp just completed its 17th year — serving between 50 and 80 campers each year during the four-day/night gathering.”

Rawson also co-founded St. Francis House of Odell after-school youth program which is going on its fifth year of operation, and successfully lobbied for local support to found a local chapter of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps — which has brought a team of five college-age service volunteers to Hood River County.

“Becki worked across multiple agencies and stakeholders in the community to secure the resources necessary to start this wonderful program,” said Raefield-Gobbo. “We can all learn from her selfless endeavors to make our community and world a better place.”

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