AN organisation which has been making a positive difference to women and girls in Cumbria for the past 64 years has been dissolved.

Penrith Soroptimists have been raising awareness, lobbying and seeking to make a difference for women and girls at home and abroad since 1961.

But members of the Penrith and District division are no longer able to contribute to the club and it was officially confirmed at an extraordinary general meeting in March that the club - part of the international soroptimist network - would be no more.

On Facebook, they wrote: "We are very sorry to announce that following an EGM on Thursday, March 14 2024, Penrith Soroptimists is no longer an official club.

"Unfortunately all of our members have found that personal circumstances have made it difficult to continue to contribute to the club and therefore it was better to end on a positive note."

The club officially ceased to exist at the end of the financial year.

Pat Newsham, former secretary at Penrith Soroptimists, shared her sadness about the club closing, as well as some memories, in an interview with the News & Star.

She said: "Penrith and District Club has been in being for 64 years, so this is really quite a sad time for us to have to close. As a club, we have done lots of programme action work."

During their 64 years in existence, Penrith Soroptimists did a huge amount of good in Cumbria, she said.

For the past 30 years, they have helped to produce the Talking Newspaper, a service which gives blind and partially sighted people independence while keeping them up to date.

Until 2023, they assisted the Calvert Trust, while they have also teamed up with Ullswater Catchment Management to plant as many trees as possible following floods in the region.

In early 2020, they took over the management of the Coronation garden behind the town hall in Penrith.

Pat added: “In 2004, we planted three roses in that garden for World Peace Day. In 2020, just before the lockdowns, we were asked if we would take over. We took over a large plot in the garden, planting a lot of shrubs and trees, and we have continued to do that ever since.”

Volunteers will continue that work, even with the club officially no more.

However, some of their most important work in the past six decades has been with victims of domestic abuse, including gestures like presenting comfort bags and books to those affected.

Pat, who has been with the club for 43 years, added: “Over the years we have done so many things. Many years ago we did a lot of work getting disabled parking in Penrith. We created awareness of the problem and eventually we convinced the council to provide one space. It’s obviously progressed a lot since then."

News and Star: The club presented books to domestic abuse victims following the announcement of its closureThe club presented books to domestic abuse victims following the announcement of its closure (Image: Supplied)

Since deciding to close in mid-March, the club have been deciding what to do with the leftover club funds totalling £2,184, and regalia including photograph albums.

Money will be split between various charities across Cumbria and the UK, including Hospice at Home Carlisle and North Lakeland, Refuge at Carlisle and Kendal, Eden District Talking Newspaper, Tiny Lives Trust, Eve Appeal and Pulmonary Fibrosis Trust.

An event will also be held on April 21 in Penrith, to celebrate 64 years of 'soroptimism'.

Pat, and another member, will remain as link members to other soroptimist clubs across Cumbria.

She said: "Neither of us felt like we wanted to give up altogether. The main reason for us giving up is that we were finding it increasingly difficult to attract younger members to join us. Members were also finding it difficult to take on various offices such as secretary.

"It's been tough since Covid, and it's a real shame."

News and Star: The group will be a significant loss to PenrithThe group will be a significant loss to Penrith (Image: Supplied)

Reacting to the news on Facebook, a number of people and organisations paid tribute to the work that SI Penrith and District have done in the last 64 years.

Soroptimist international Cockermouth and District commented: "It is a sad day to lose another club in Cumbria. The work that Penrith Soroptimists has done over the last 64 years to improve the lives of women and girls has been amazing.

"We welcome the members who want to link with SI Cockermouth and are pleased to be taking forward your work on recycling and textiles as part of our Programme Action."

Member Anne MacDonald commented: "It has been a privilege to be part of this organisation, albeit for quite a short time in my case . The ethos and commitment of the club has allowed me to explore areas of sustainability and the protection of women and children.

"All things that I believe in passionately. Penrith Soroptimists will be a great miss to our local community."

Jane Katsambis added: "A sad time for all members of Penrith Club and the whole region! Your PA work is outstanding, your friendship and kindness - wonderful. I look forward to attending your celebration of SI Penrith and all it has achieved.

"The good news is that Penrith will still benefit from your efforts - just not under the name of Soroptimist International Penrith."

According to its website, Soroptimist International was founded in 1921 as a global volunteer service for women with almost 66,000 members in 118 countries worldwide.