Soroptimist International of Montclair/Inland Valley has been improving the lives of women and girls in the region for more than 100 years. Moving into 2024, the service organization is gearing up for one of its signature events, the PRISM Awards, which will unfold in April.

The annual awards luncheon, which has been going strong for more than 30 years, is the organization’s signature event as it shines the spotlight on those individuals making a difference in the lives of the region’s women and children. As such, the organization hands out scholarships and also honors women and groups throughout the community making the community a better place. 

The awards are a vital and important part of our organization,” says Diane Well, president of Soroptimist International of Montclair/Inland Valley.

The organization has long stood out for its noble efforts. As part of a global enterprise, the Soroptimists’ chapter members often spend long hours volunteering in the community, helping to raise funds for various projects. Honors are shared through various avenues, such as awards ceremonies.

The Violet Richardson Award, for instance, is given to a teenage change agent, whose work in school and the community has been exceptional. 

Other charitable projects of note include making blankets for foster children—more than 470 blankets have been delivered to date.

Recently, Soroptimist International of Montclair/Inland Valley became a Women’s Giving Fund grantee through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The fund offers a rare opportunity for female donors to learn more about significant issues, such as women’s economic security issues, the power of collaborative philanthropy, and a sharper focus on issues impacting women and children.

This grant will allow us to help more women,” Wells says, pointing out that the resources will assist with the group’s Women Helping Women awards, which are offered annually to local women who have risen high to foster positive change in the lives of others.

Shining the spotlight on trailblazing women in the area is key, and the resources offered to those trailblazers will assist them on numerous fronts. But Wells is quick to note several other initiatives that stand out in Soroptimist International of Montclair/Inland Valley.

There’s the Live Your Dream Award, which is also handed out annually to a female in a household. 

It’s the primary source of financial support for the family, so a woman can continue her education, and be able to better provide for the people she’s responsible for,” Wells adds, “whether it be siblings, children, elderly parents, etc. They can use the scholarship money in any way they need to so they can stay in school. If they’re a nursing student, they can buy the proper shoes. If they need transportation, it can go to transportation costs. It can go to books; it can go to childcare. We trust them to know what they need themselves and to spend the money wisely.”

Women who have a family and are enrolled in school and want to continue their education, can apply for the Live Your Dream Award in August at There are several noteworthy aspects of the process. One of them includes workshops offered by Soroptimist International of Montclair/Inland Valley, which is ideal for women interested in applying.

“There are two essay questions and that always scares people,” Wells says of the process. “We help women so that they are comfortable telling their story.”

Soroptimist International came to life in 1921, designed as a specific service organization to improve the lives of women and girls. More than 100 years later, local chapters keep the organization’s mission and focus strong.

Wells says she appreciates her role as president, noting there is power—and empowerment—in a group of dynamic women involved in a variety of impactful endeavors. Wells, for instance, is an active volunteer locally, and a member of the Women’s Club of Montclair, another service organization. 

I’m just one example of many others hoping to make a difference,” she shares. “I’m retired, so I have the time to do that, but I was even a volunteer when I was still working.”

About half of the group’s members are retired, and those who are employed are made up of executive directors, mental health professionals, educators, and other professionals. “We’re a great group that supports one another in many ways,” Wells goes on. “But we also support our community as we try to help women and girls reach their potential.”

This story originally appeared in the Press Enterprise in December 2023.

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