Annual awards program highlights the achievements and volunteerism of five honorees this year

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Left to right, Sayra Tuxpan, Krista Cornett, Leilani Miyake, Janna Johnson and Sandra Acosta Casillas.

Soroptimist International of Gresham recently honored three women and two teenagers at its annual awards program.

The five honorees were selected for taking positive steps to change their own lives, and in praise of their commitment to affecting the lives of others through volunteerism.

They were honored at an awards luncheon Thursday, March 6, at the Gresham Elks Lodge. Soroptimists presented the women with cash awards to encourage and assist them in achieving their future goals.

Soroptimist International of Gresham is a professional women’s organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and children in the community.

Through various fundraising activities, Soroptimists provide scholarships, grants and financial assistance to area students and local nonprofit groups.

The Gresham club, founded in 1977, meets at noon Thursdays at the Gresham Elks Lodge, 3330 N.E. Division St.

Women’s Opportunity Award

Established in 1972 to assist motivated women who are the primary financial supporters of their families, the Women’s Opportunity Award went to Sandra Acosta Casillas for a first-place prize of $3,500, and Sayra Tuxpan for a second-place prize of $2,000.

n Casillas was once a teenage mother who was involved in a gang, abused substances and endured domestic violence. She overcame these obstacles to care for her four children, enroll at the University of Phoenix in a business program and work two jobs — one full time as an operations manager for Pathfinders of Oregon and one in part-time retail. She also cares for husband, who suffers from epilepsy. Casillas recently became a U.S. citizen and was approved to build a home for her family through Habitat for Humanity.

n Tuxpan has overcome abuse, homelessness and poverty to return to school and create a better future for herself and her two children. She is enrolled in Mt. Hood Community College and dreams of transferring to Concordia University to receive her bachelor’s degree in accounting. Tuxpan also volunteers 4-6 hours a week at her church, helping to support single mothers and their children.

Violet Richardson Award

A recognition program for young women ages 14-17 who are engaged in volunteer activities in their schools and communities, the Violet Richardson Award is given to young women who help to make their community and world a better place.

Krista Cornett received the first-place prize of $1,500, and Leilani Miyake received the second-place prize of $1,000.

n As a Trauma Intervention Program Teen, Cornett is on call 365 days a year to assist and comfort other students and their family members during crises. The national organization provides care to those who have been emotionally traumatized in an emergency. Cornett is also a junior high school and mission team student volunteer at Good Shepherd Community Church, where she has participated in student missions.

n Miyake volunteers in the child care center at My Father’s House Family Shelter, where she helps with homework, plays board games, changes diapers and offers a compassionate ear. The shelter helps parents find stable jobs and establish residency. She is also a member of Key Club at her high school.

Ruby Award

Honoring women who use their personal or professional influence to improve the lives of other women and girls, the Ruby Award was given to Amity Project in Janna Johnson’s name.

A social worker at Reynolds High School, Johnson helps hundreds of girls each year, along with running several different girl support groups, coaching on the dance team, co-chairing the Gay Straight Alliance Club, serving as the junior class council adviser and helping organize prom. Soroptimists described Johnson as serving students with grace and compassion, and finding a way to fill the needs she sees.

The Soroptimist awards were made possible by the 2013 Teddy Bear Parade sponsors, including Weston Buick GMC Kia, Fred Meyer, All About Automotive, Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center, Pediatric Therapy, OnPoint Community Credit Union, Tokola Properties for Central Market and Kitchen and Mt. Hood Community College.

To learn more about Soroptimists, visit

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