This article appeared in the Staten Island Advance.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Recently I accepted a friend's invitation to paint a picture and drink wine. Yes and yes! What's not to love?
So I bought six tickets for the Pinot's Palette event and at the end of the day, we marveled at six easeled canvases of questionable beauty but inimitable "character," each with my family's interpretation of wildflowers in a vase.
What fun we had, mixing colors and trying to keep up with the "Speedy Gonzalez" art instructor in the front of the crowded room, replete with the Madonna-style headphone and an intuitive paintbrush.
Plus, she had the patience of a saint, as evidenced when my perfectionist daughter, Angelica, tearfully lamented halfway through that her rendering was nowhere close to the instructor's, and St. Pinot expertly corrected it with a nicer, less "funky-brown" background for her blossoming daffodils.
The best part was that the proceeds from the evening supported of the charitable organization, Soroptimist International of Staten Island.
Some may have heard of it -- and I have, because my sister was a recipient of their scholarship as a high school senior and I remember eating delicious salmon at the awards luncheon at Pavilion on the Terrace -- but for those who haven't, allow me to enlighten on the good work the group doe.s
Soroptimist is a global women's organization whose members work to improve the lives of women and girls, empowering them with access to education, which is one of the most effective ways to end social problems disproportionately affecting women and girls.
And Soroptimist International of Staten Island is celebrating the club's 60th anniversary this year.
Loosely translated from Latin, Soroptimist means "best for women." Soroptimist was formed in 1921 because women who were interested in volunteering in their communities were not permitted to join male service organizations.
Since that time, the organization has worked to help women improve their standing in the world.
"Despite the serious nature of our mission, Soroptimists do their work in a spirit of friendship and fun," said Janet Dugo, president of Soroptimist of Staten Island. "So getting together at Pinot's Palette to have a good time and do good at the same time comes naturally to us, and it's contagious."
There are 32,000 members of Soroptimist International of the Americas and 80,000 members worldwide from 19 countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guam, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, United States and Venezuela.
Soroptimists are women who use the unique expertise in their respective fields to advance the status of other women. It's a club wherein women work with likeminded women throughout the world for human rights, equality, development and peace.
Joanie Galestro, who's been a member for five years, said of Soroptimist: "It's an amazing group of women who all have the same goal – to improve the lives of women and girls. We've raised awareness for domestic violence and human trafficking.
"We honor women and recognize young girls for their dedication, hard work and commitment, for their volunteer efforts, and have helped improve the lives of women who have overcome adversity. When I stand up at the end of every meeting and recite our pledge, I do so with pride!"
"Soroptimist International of Staten Island's mission is to help other women," Dugo added. "Our club is able to do so not only locally, but also around the world, because of our affiliation with the larger Soroptimist organization, which has a global presence."
"For example, when Superstorm Sandy struck Staten Island, our Soroptimists received funds from other Soroptimist clubs that we were able to put to use to assist women and girls affected by the storm. Then, when disasters struck the Midwestern U.S. and the Philippines, the favor was returned and assistance was provided to clubs in those areas.
According to Dugo, Soroptimist's signature program is the annual distribution of a "Live Your Dream Award," a financial stipend to a woman who is the sole financial support of her household, who has overcome serious hardship, and who is now pursuing education to make a better life for her family.
In recent years, the awardees have had such compelling stories and such high levels of accomplishment that two of them went on to win even larger financial awards at the regional level of Soroptimist.
"Many of these women have a pay-it-forward mentality, and pursue careers in social services," said Dugo. "One of them has now completed her education at the master's level and recently ran for a New York state Assembly seat!
"Knowing that we helped 'water the seed' that is bringing forth such good works gives us great motivation to continue our efforts."
Additionally, each year Soroptimist International of Staten Island also provides funding and support to various community service organizations on Staten Island to aid their work for women and girls.
Just recently, they sponsored an event at Wagner College facilitated by Tackling Youth Substance Abuse that addressed the role of alcohol in sexual assault and women's health and how young women can keep their friends safe.
Finally, Dugo said, Soroptimists of Staten Island is now in the process of rehabilitating a garden area at Staten Island University Hospital that is seen daily by many women who are receiving cancer treatment, in the hope that the beauty of the refurbished "healing garden" will provide a moment of serenity and joy to those women.
"There are other charitable groups on Staten Island that serve women and girls, but none that I know of with the reach of Soroptimist," added Dugo. "And there are other charitable groups on Staten Island with a global reach, but none solely dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls. In that way, we are unique.
"Being a Soroptimist is a special gift. We have a few distinguished women who have been members for over 40 years, including Dr. Lina Merlino (55 years); her sister, Dr. Ann Merlino (48 years); Cindy Roberti (33 years); Janet Wassmuth, (35 years) and Pat Ghilain (33 years).
"And so many of our members have been involved for five, 10 and 20 years. It's a warm, welcoming group. Our doors are always open to guests and potential new members."
For more info on Soroptimist International of Staten Island:
If you're interested in joining, email SIStatenIsland@soroptimist.net. They meet the first Wednesday of every month at the Staaten at 6:30 p.m., with the exception of July, August and January.
To contribute, please contact Soroptimist headquarters at firstname.lastname@example.org. Charitable gifts can also be sent to: Soroptimist International of the Americas, 1709 Spruce St., Philadelphia, PA 19103-6103.
Soroptimist International of the Americas is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent provided by United States law.
Pinot's Palette Webster Groves offers painting classes where guests are invited to bring their friends, open a bottle of wine and create a beautiful work of art! One of this studio's most popular classes is Project Pet in which the artist walks students step-by-step through a painting of their own pet!
Now Pinot's Palette artists will create paintings of nine rescued animals that have been given a second chance through Stray Rescue. These paintings will be combined with others at the Urban Wanderers Art Exhibition. The exhibit opens with a reception at Gallery 400 at 400 Washington Ave. on Friday, July 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. It will continue through Aug. 2.
Artists from Pinot’s Palette Webster Groves will help raise money for Stray Rescue at the Urban Wanderers Art Exhibition & Auction. This year’s theme is “Face of Survival. Artists from across the nation will auction off painting, sculptures, photographs and other pieces to raise money for the no-kill animal shelter. Even animals at Stray Rescue used their noses, tails and paws to paint their own masterpieces. Pinot’s Palette teaches anyone how to paint just about anything. Instructors provide the tools. Adult students provide the friends, food and wine.
Eight Pinot's Palette Artist created 11 paintings for this event through their Project Pet class in which they walk students through painting their own pet!
We were so excited to see the blog that Malibu Mama Loves posted on her blog about her fun night out at Pinot's Palette Westlake Village. She was so sweet and got the full scoop from my sister and I about our journey to open up our paint and wine studio. We really loved all of the pictures she took of her canvas' transformation into a masterpiece! Go check out her blog and get a front row seat to her night out at Pinot's Palette Westlake Village!
Set on the oak-shaded grounds of Eden Theological Seminary in the heart of historic Webster Groves, this year's "Art & Air, The Webster Arts Fair," was help over the June 5-7 weekend. Supported by the nonprofit Webster Arts, Air & Air featured food from local restaurants, non-stop live performances, art demonstrations creative activities and more than 110 juried artist. Pinot's Palette Webster Groves sponsored the children's mural at the fair. Will Cobar, age 6 and a resident of Glendale, can be seen enjoying painting the mural with Rachel Bick of Pinot's Palette.