Founded in 1922, SILA is the third oldest club in Soroptimist International. For more than 90 years, Soroptimist International of Los Angeles has supported multiple service projects with over $1,000,000 worth of in-kind resources, donations, awards and fellowships. The club has served as a major backer of highly regarded residential programs for female scholars, homeless women, and life saving shelter services for women and children who are victims of violence in the home. Our club is also active in public education on human trafficking, violence against women and teen relationship to violence.
In response to the 1946 Soroptimist International American Federation Convention challenge to provide “a service with a definite character and continuity,” SILA adopted two service goals: the purchase of an international house for women college students and a $1,500 annual Fellowship Award. In May of 1947, the club celebrated its 25th anniversary with the establishment of the SILA Foundation.
A satisfactory property was found and, after some compromise, the final price was $23,500, (over $235,000 in today’s dollars). With only $1,000 in the treasury, the immediate problem was one of money. Creative ways were found to raise funds including an Easter bazar, a garden party, and the “Paris in the Spring” luncheon. In May,1955, during a regular meeting at the Biltmore Hotel, with the L.A. Fire Chief in attendance, the mortgage burning ceremony took place.
With one goal accomplished, a special committee, chaired by Muriel Morse, recommended that the board consider adding another residential building at the rear of the existing Soroptimist House property. Less than 4 months later, on a Sunday in September of 1958, SILA saw their dream come alive when 10 more women students called Unit II of Soroptimist House their home.
Citing two of the Soroptimist pledge goals, “Joy of Achievement” and “Dignity of Service” in 1967, SILA President Read donates $3000 to KCET.
In the 60’s, SILA donated $10,000 for construction of a therapeutic swimming pool at Camp Paivika, a special needs camp near Crestline in the San Bernardino National Forest. Opened in 1947, Camp Paivika was one of the nation’s first resident recreational camps built specifically for people with disabilities. An AbilityFirst (formerly the Crippled Children’s Society) facility, Camp Paivika serves kids and adults with autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, epilepsy and other mild to severe physical and developmental disabilities.
Downtown Women's Center (DWC)
In 1978, using her life savings with some financial support from others, social worker Jill Haverson rented a storefront area and opened the city’s first drop-in day center for women on Skid Row. Initially operated as a de facto mental health facility with volunteer psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses, the center has grown and moved to its new location, still on Skid Row. We feel a special connection to the Downtown Women’s Center both because of our early 1986 contribution of $28,000 to sponsor a room in the first residential facility and our continuing DWC connection as a participant in one of SILA’s annual Day of Service activities.
Service and fundraising remains a strong focus of today's SILA. In the words of Muriel Morse: “No minutes, no audits, no words or phrases can tell the real story of Soroptimist Foundation of Los Angeles. It is not a story of facts and figures, but a story of people.”