Soroptimist International of Bidwell Rancho

FUN’S A-BREWING: Soroptimist International of Bidwell Rancho members Paula Dodds, Sheron Box, Dawn Letner and Venita Tuter take a break during last year’s Microbrew Festival.

FUN’S A-BREWING: Soroptimist International of Bidwell Rancho members Paula Dodds, Sheron Box, Dawn Letner and Venita Tuter take a break during last year’s Microbrew Festival.

Soroptimist International of Bidwell Rancho, P.O. Box 9170, Chico, CA 95927, (530) 342-3768

Even if you’re a teetotaler, you have to appreciate what Soroptimist International of Bidwell Rancho has been able to accomplish by having a few folks over for a beer.

Thanks to the club’s highly successful Microbrew Festival, Soroptimist Bidwell Rancho is able to support a variety of community organizations. Last month, with money raised at last year’s festival, Soroptimist Bidwell Rancho presented nearly $10,000 to nine local groups. Beneficiaries included Rape Crisis, Pleasant Valley High School Band, Wings of Eagles, Peg Taylor Center for Adult Day Health Care, Habitat for Humanity and Girl Scouts. A defibrillator valued at more than $3000 was presented to Chico Fire Station No. 6.

That’s pretty impressive for a club with a couple dozen members. Soroptimist Bidwell Rancho was formed in 1987, splitting off from the larger Soroptimist International of Chico. The Bidwell Rancho club meets twice monthly in the evening for the convenience of those women who can’t get away during lunch for a meeting. Both clubs share the common goal of working to help women.

The parent organization, Soroptimist International, was founded in 1921 as a means for working women to unite in service to the community. Now with some 100,000 members in 112 countries, Soroptimist International is the world’s largest classified service organization for businesswomen.

Soroptimist Bidwell Rancho Vice President Barbara Heidinger says the club’s membership takes pride in the success of the Microbrew Festival and the funds they’re able to raise.

“For a single person it’s hard to make a difference, but if you become part of a group, that group can make a big difference,” Heidinger said. “I think that’s what’s kept a lot of people going. We’re able to actually raise enough money to give away to help with different programs and individuals.”

The Soroptimists send out grant applications to local organizations each January. A committee reviews the applications and sends its recommendations to the entire club for a vote.

In addition to supporting local community groups through grants, Soroptimist Bidwell Rancho has “adopted” Fairview High School and supports its young-parent program and provides scholarships and incentives for graduates. The group also assembled gift baskets for Meals on Wheels recipients for Make a Difference Day.

Now in its sixth year, this year’s Microbrew Festival is scheduled for Saturday, June 9, from 2-6 p.m. at Manzanita Place, 1705 Manzanita Ave., Chico. More than 30 breweries have committed to participating, including local favorites Sierra Nevada, Butte Creek, Feather River and Tuscan.

In addition to the beer tastings, food from Great Harvest Bread, Bell-Carter Olive and Chico Locker and Sausage will be available. Electric Circus and Mas provide the music.

With attendance averaging around 800, Heidinger encourages people to buy their tickets in advance at Black Crow, Butte Creek Brewing Co., Chico BrewHouse, Chico Chamber of Commerce, Diamond W, Home Brew Shop, Sierra Nevada Brewery or Quackers.

You must be 21 years old to attend the event, and IDs will be checked at the door. Heidinger says the intention of the event is to socialize and have fun while sampling a variety of beers, not to become inebriated. Nevertheless, the organization has arranged for taxis to be on hand for the last hour of the event for those who need a safe ride home.

Heidinger is quick to point out that club members have a lot of fun while working together on their fundraising projects. She suggests that attending the Microbrew Festival is a good way for potential members to learn more about the club, which is open to working professional women who want to network with their peers. Heidinger says while the goal is to keep Soroptimist Bidwell Rancho a small, friendly club, they always welcome new members.

“The friendship is wonderful, but being able to make a difference is the motivator."