Founded in 1921, Soroptimist International has had a club in Tahlequah for decades. Its mission is to improve "the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment."
One way Soroptimist International Tahlequah continues that mission is by sponsoring S-Club at Tahlequah High School. S-Club stands for Service Club, and according to Soroptimist members, it is one of the longest-standing organizations at THS.
Chandra Scroggins has been a member of Soroptimist of Tahlequah for two years, and was an S-Club member in high school. She is currently a member of the S-Club committee.
"I was looking for an outlet to be involved with philanthropy in the community," said Scroggins. "They do a lot of philanthropy, whether collecting donations for Help In Crisis, Habitat for Humanity, or a toy drive in December for children."
Mindy Baker is starting her second year as a Soroptimist and is the current parent sponsor for S-Club.
"Both of my daughters, Ivee and Dru, have been a part of S-Club. They've had a lot of fun with it. Ivee graduated, and they needed a new sponsor," said Baker. "I wanted Dru to be a part of it. I saw what S-Club did for the school and the community and I was impressed."
Baker is a former teacher, so she is excited to be working with the S-Club.
"It's nice to spend time with my daughter and to give back to the community and school," she said.
Baker said the THS S-Club may be one of the only chapters still active.
Any girl is welcome to apply, but freshmen are selected at the end of the school year, so active members are in grades 10-12. They take 10 students per grade, so their membership is at 30.
"S-Club is a bit like a high school sorority. We have rush week. They are interviewed by Soroptimist members. We recruit girls we think will be a good fit. They have to have good grades and leadership qualities," said Baker. "They have to have a heart for service and doing for others. We want to know they'll dedicate time to others."
Each month, S-Club members meet and plan upcoming events and service opportunities, and they do a quick service project.
"They make positive signs for the other schools, and make Kindness Confetti, which is on a Post-it note. They find someone they think is having a bad day, or they think has done something good, and give them the notes," said Baker. "They spread kindness throughout the schools at random times."
S-Club tries to partner with organizations that the Soroptimists support, such as Zayden's Toy Drive, Tahlequah Day Shelter, and My Friends & Me. The S-Club's first project this school year will be to build a balloon arch for the My Friends & Me Donut Run. Club members take turns volunteering at Feed My Sheep, so three or four of them are at the meal each week.
They have also made blessing bags full of personal care items and snacks, which they gave to the Department of Human Services worker at THS for girls who may need them. One fundraiser they hosted was Egg My Yard, and the S-Club members filled over 1,300 eggs, which they hid in 45 yards the night before Easter.
"It was crazy, but fun," said Baker. "The money raised was donated to the Human Society. They like to do things, not just in school, but also in the community. It's cute to see where their hearts are."
Personal development is another aspect on which S-Club members focus.
"While they're serving others, we want to make sure they take care of themselves," said Baker.
The students made vision boards in January, so they would have ideas for inspiration and focus for the year. Diane Walker talked to the club about preparing for college or vo-tech and school placement tests.
In 2015, Soroptimist International launched the Dream It, Be It: Career Support for Girls curriculum. According to the Soroptimist website, this "gives girls the tools they need to achieve their education and career goals, empowering them to break cycles of poverty, violence, and abuse. Dream It, Be It equips girls to overcome their obstacles, set goals, and head towards success."
For last year's Dream It, Be It project, S-Club got assistance from Cherokee Nation Career Services and Soroptimist Stephanie Isaacs to present a 10-minute program during THS lunch times about being smart on social media.
"They spread the wealth - not just to S-Club, but to all the girls at school," said Baker. "These are things that are important to this generation. We hope to do programs on safety and financial awareness."
On Aug. 22, Soroptimist International Tahlequah will host the Members & Friends Mixer at Vidalia's Cafe, 319 N. Muskogee Ave., 5:30-7 p.m.
Baker said this is a good time for S-Club moms to learn more about Soroptimist International.
"As a mom, I want to make sure moms know it's more than just a girls' club. We actually give back," she said. "Our [Soroptimist] members are fewer because there are a lot of organizations to choose from. To keep S-Club going, we need members."
There are now about 20 Soroptimist members in Tahlequah. They are all ages and from a variety of lifestyles and businesses, including educators, bank employees, stay-at-home moms, and NSU and Cherokee Nation employees.
"What we pride ourselves on is being a part of a global network. It's a great networking and support system. I've gained great friendships on top of business contacts," said Baker, who works for the corporate side of Avon. "I encourage anyone out there who wants to give back to the community and wants to see S-Club continue in school to join us at the members, moms and friends mixer."
Meals will be the responsibility of the attendees, but information and door prizes will be available.