They wore hats, pearls and ladylike clothes. Despite that, the Soroptimist Tea was a casual event.
The cheery get together on a recent Saturday afternoon was a chance to show four invited guests what it would be like to join the group dedicated to a more serious mission – helping girls and women deal with abuse, trafficking, poverty and education.
Five Points Magenta
Five Points Magneta, the Soroptimist International chapter, includes members from Germantown, Mt. Airy, West Oak Lane, Tioga and Nicetown, and has been active for nearly 25 years.
About 10 women sat in Cheryl L. Ford’s living room that day. Each picked a number from one to three, which would determine how many facts they would have to say about themselves for the new potential members.
Among them were mothers, grad students and participants of the Women’s Solo Project, which provides free resources to female victims of domestic abuse. All of them were interested in doing what is best for women, the mission of the Soroptimist clubs around the world.
Soroptimist began in California in 1921 and grew internationally. It’s a relationship that connects the local chapters with what’s going on all over the world, said Wanda Price, a member who was the past governor for the North Atlantic Region of Soroptimist.
Ford, treasurer for Five Points and district three director for Soroptimist, said the district includes 13 clubs in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and West Virginia. Members of these groups engage with local women’s issues as well as those a play in other countries.
For example, in parts of Pakistan girls couldn’t go to school after a certain age because there wasn’t a specific bathroom for them. The group helped raise money to correct this.
Five Points Magenta has 23 members in different age groups but is hoping to appeal to younger people in order to expand.
One way is by making them aware of human traffacking, a problem that seems to targek girls and young women all over the world.
The group has screened parts of the Hollywood film “Taken” to show how easy it is to be kidnapped, Price said. Members reflected that the scenario in the film is not all that different from how the problem can start in real life. Runaways are prey. Men meet them at bus stations and initially treat them nicely in order to manipulate them into abusive situations like drug dependency and even prostitution.
“For the young girls, it’s almost about scaring them with the facts and figures,” Price said, about waking people up to this reality.
The group has also handed out fliers as part of their Stop Trafficking program at 30th Street Station, where some people were surprised that this happens in the United States and others thanked them for spreading awareness.
Five Points Magenta also wants to recognize and encourage women.
It gives out three awards each year to teenagers and women: two, for their work in the community, and one, to a woman who is going back to school.
This is how the group met Tyra Wright-Johnson, the founder of the Women’s Solo Project, who was struggling to pay for school. She learned about the scholarship through a friend and decided to apply. She didn’t think she would receive it because there would be other women applying who also needed it.
When she did win, she stayed connected with the group.
She eventually joined Five Points and is now the board secretary. Wright-Johnson also wants the club to grow and invited women to learn more about Soroptimist at the tea, such as Latisha Ferrara.
Ferrara, a mental health therapist for Northwestern Human Services, came prepared.
She researched the group and asked lots of questions. She was happy with their answers. Ferrara is involved in the local level through Pennsylvania Recovery Organization – Achieving Community Together but was looking to work on an international level, too.
Another new attendee, Nakia Garrett, who sells jewelry and is a grad student, didn’t know what to expect but wanted to look appropriate for the event. So she searched for long white gloves that women would wear to a fancy tea.
After watching a video about the organization and speaking to the members, she saw a place where she could make a difference. And she was already thinking of other women who would be interested in joining.
“Young women are getting lost,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s lack of rearing or support. This is a good platform.”