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Soroptimist International celebrates centennial; Gresham branch honored by city proclamation

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Councilor Vincent Jones-Dixon presents President Alina Rocha Johnson with a proclamation declaring Oct. 3 Soroptimist International of Gresham Day.A national organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls through education, employment and opportunities celebrated a centennial milestone while the Gresham branch was recognized by city leadership.

Soroptimist International of the Americas turned 100 this year, and the Gresham branch celebrated the official proclamation of Oct. 3 as Soroptimist International of Gresham Day.

"We are so excited to have this officially be our day," said Gresham branch president Alina Rocha Johnson.

The honor was presented by Gresham Councilor Vincent Jones-Dixon during a meeting Thursday afternoon, Sept. 23.

"Thank you for your commitment to our community," Jones-Dixon said. "You are truly making a difference for young girls across our city and the world."

The honor helped buoy spirits after what has been a difficult year and a half. Like many around the globe, the Gresham Soroptimists have been forced to shutter popular events. That included canceling the iconic Gresham Teddy Bear Parade in 2020 and 2021 — delaying a popular event that winds through downtown and draws thousands into the community, all while raising critical funds for the organization.

But despite those setbacks, the Gresham Soroptimists haven't lost their focus on uplifting women.

"Women and girls face tremendous challenges solely because of their gender," Rocha Johnson said. "The Soroptimists have a long history of working to overcome those obstacles."

Back in 1921 a group of women living in Oakland, California, wanted a way to make a difference in their community, but they weren't permitted to join the all-male clubs. So the women created their own — the Soroptimists. Now there are 1,300 clubs across 21 countries.

The Gresham branch was founded in 1977 and has since made a mark on the community. The highlight is the Teddy Bear Parade every September, but they do so much more. Other signature projects include the Live Your Dream Awards; Dream It. Be It.; Free the Girls; and other annual scholarships to help women achieve their education goals.

Learn more about the Gresham Soroptimists online at

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