Award helps further one area woman’s dream

Louisa Voges of Newcastle to receive $1,000 from female charitable club
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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Four years ago, Louisa Voges lost her job, her marriage and her home, but she’s determined to turn what has been a tumultuous period of her life into a lesson for her three children.

The award she will receive tonight is some recognition that she is headed in the right direction.

Voges, of Newcastle, will receive the Women’s Opportunity Award tonight from Soroptimist International of Historic Auburn – giving her $1,000 to use as she sees fit. It will help ease the stress she has felt in making ends meet as she has struggled with unemployment since February 2009, she said.

Her goal is to be self-sustaining, and she has been working toward her accounting degree at Sierra College with hopes of specializing in helping deaf and hard-of-hearing clients.

Voges said she recognized a growing need for help in that area when she worked with therapists as her son, Joey, had hearing issues early in his life.

Not only did that experience inspire her, but she hopes to inspire her own children by achieving her goal. This award will help her pay rent, support her children and even cover some textbook costs, she said.

“I’ve had a crazy life – just to have the solid foundation for the kids is really important, and to be able to provide for them,” Voges said. “Coming from an abusive background, I try to give the kids the solidness they need to not make the choices I made. And this will definitely help to send me in the right direction to getting a degree and being able to be self sustaining to show the kids if you have a dream, you can make it, no matter how long it takes or how far away it seems.”

She made the dean’s list last semester with a 3.64 grade-point average, and she is taking American Sign Language courses to supplement her studies. Voges plans to transfer to William Jessup University to get a bachelor’s degree in business after finishing at Sierra College.

She had been working in customer service at a startup heating and air company but when the recession took hold, the company laid her off, and other than some temporary work, she hasn’t been able to find employment, she said.

Food stamps and food closets, unemployment checks, thrift stores and Pell grants have helped her and her children get by, she said.

“It’s been a real struggle,” Voges said. “Sometimes you’ve got to tell the kids they’ve got choices: They can go on the field trip or have that pair of shoes.”

Her two oldest children, Joey, 14 and Abbie, 11 are Gifted and Talented Education, or GATE, students, and her youngest, 9-year-old Emily, has an affinity for music.

This isn’t the first time the family has been helped by a Soroptimist club – a program in Rocklin took the children school shopping one year, Voges said.

“The Soroptimist club has a good heart and they really want to help out in the area,” she said. “I know they have difficulty with people understanding who they are and what they do, but it’s a bunch of ladies that have a heart to help, and that’s what they want to do.”

Along with the Women’s Opportunity Award, Soroptimist International of Historic Auburn will contribute more than $7,000 this year to area organizations helping women, children, seniors and others in need.

The club is one of three Soroptimist groups in the Auburn area. Soroptimist International of Auburn gives around $9,000 annually in charitable contributions, ranging from its own Women’s Opportunity Award to various scholarships and other causes.

The area’s third club, Soroptimist International of the American River, also acts philanthropically in the community and gave out its Women’s Opportunity Award along with other scholarships at its annual awards dinner last month. It has given out more than $3,200 so far this year.

Esther Greenhalgh, a lifelong member of Soroptimist International of Historic Auburn, said the awards ceremony is always “heartwarming” and the winners often come back to the club in the future to be on the other side of the equation.

“It’s amazing how many women come back,” after receiving the Women’s Opportunity Award, Greenhalgh said. “We have had some of our winners come back and become Soroptimists once they become employed in a position where they can (do it).”


Jon Schultz can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews