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Five honored for their service to others

Women rebuilding own lives, lives of teens
By: Jenifer Gee,
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Five women were honored for their ability to overcome the odds at this year’s awards ceremony for a local service group. 
 
Members of Soroptimist International of the American River gave out scholarship money and honors to the women it selected this year as recipients for its third annual awards ceremony held Wednesday at Lou La Bonte’s in Auburn. 
 
The group selected Teresa Williamson as its winner of the Women’s Opportunity Award. Williamson found herself homeless at 13. In her 20s, she started to pursue additional education, but her plans were put on hold when family circumstances led her to adopt her niece and nephew.
 
Today, she is taking classes in medical training and is supporting her family. She said she will use the money given with the award to pay down student loans and put toward transportation costs. 
 
“This award is wonderful, encouraging and inspiring,” Williamson said at the ceremony. 
 
Del Oro student Samantha Harris received the club’s Violet Richardson Award for starting an anti-bullying club at her school and for organizing an anti-bullying week with rally at the Loomis school’s campus. Harris said she was inspired to start the club after she was “severely bullied” in middle school. 
 
“I decided to help others,” she said. 
 
Lisa Peat received the club’s Ruby Award: For Women Helping Women after buying and starting a transition home for girls aging out of the foster care system. Peat and volunteers help girls develop life skills so they can eventually live on their own. Peat said helping teen girls is at her “heart.” 
 
“I’m happy to do it for the girls,” she said. “It’s not an easy thing to do, it’s painful, but it’s the right thing to do.” 
 
Inspired by Camile Binkley’s story, the club created an award to support the young teen working to and succeeding from the foster care system. Binkley received the club’s SOAR-ing Star Award to recognize a woman’s “resilience and perseverance in working toward her goals.”
 
In another first, the club awarded its inaugural Annabell McCord Award to honor one of Soroptimist’s own for their contributions to the community. McCord was a two-time mayor of Auburn in addition to a long list of volunteer activities and accomplishments. 
 
Merrill Kagan-Weston was this year’s winner. Kagan-Weston, who has owned API Marketing for nearly 30 years, was surprised to find out she was the recipient. She said she always admired McCord’s service and that she loves helping women and girls in the community. 
 
“I know (McCord’s) out there urging me to serve,” Kagan-Weston said. “That’s the best honor.”