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The Soroptimist International chapter of Hammonton recently hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony, observing the club's contribution of a commemorative stone and gazebo overlooking Hammonton Lake.

Founded in 1921, Soroptimist International is a volunteer organization working to improve the lives of women and girls in local communities and throughout the world. The word Soroptimist was coined from the Latin word soror meaning sister, and optima meaning best. Soroptimist is perhaps best interpreted as “the best for women,” and that is the goal for members of Soroptimist International.

The Hammonton chapter of Soroptimist International has been helping women throughout Atlantic County since the 1950s.

“My great-grandmother, Myrtle Esposito, was one of the founding charter members,” said Devon Esposito, current member and daughter of fellow member, Susan Esposito.

“This gazebo is a quiet place where women can come to think and find some solace looking out over the lake,” said Esposito, “It's a ‘Peace Garden’ dedicated as a visible reminder of victims of domestic violence. With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the timing couldn't be better.”

“We're here to help women get on their feet,” said Chapter President, Monica Wuillermin. “We work closely with the Atlantic County Women's Shelter by offering professional, emotional and financial support. We do things like donate gift card trees and wreaths during the holiday season, so that women at the shelter can feel empowered by going out and choosing gifts for their children with their own cards. We also give away two scholarships annually, called Live Your Dream awards.”

Deputy Mayor Thomas Gribbin said after cutting the ribbon, “For the town, having groups like the Soroptimists and having something as beautiful as this, really is what makes Hammonton special. It's what differentiates Hammonton from a lot of other towns in South Jersey, and we're very lucky in the fact that we have citizens and residents that are very dedicated to the town and dedicated to helping other residents. I think it's very important — it's very special and I appreciate all of the efforts of the Soroptimists and everything that you've done throughout the years to make Hammonton a great place.”

“The planning, construction and maintenance of the gazebo has been a community effort,” said club president Wuillerman. “We would like to send out a special thank you to Louie Cappuccio of Green Giant Landscaping for continually maintaining the grass and flowers around the gazebo, and to Stephen Farquhar of Ravelli Memorials for the beautiful, engraved stone.”

“This project was spearheaded by Carol Santora,” said fellow member, Kristie Privitera. “It took her three years, and lots of hard work and it's finally paid off. We couldn't have done it without her. We're finally realizing our dream.”

FUNDRAISERS

The Soroptimists will host their eighth annual Bags and Bling, where attendees can win jewelry along with bags by Coach, Kate Spade, Cole Haan and Dooney & Burke on Thursday, Nov. 12 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Hammonton Fire Company No. 2. Visit the Facebook page at Soroptimist International of Hammonton for Bags & Bling details and for information on how to donate holiday gift cards for the Atlantic County Women's Shelter.

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