December 1, 2023

The Soroptimists’ annual Hats & Heels fundraiser is returning in-person with a ‘60s themed event next month after being held virtually the past two years.

The North San Diego and Poway Soroptimists International chapters are hoping to have at least 300 attend the Sunday, April 24 event that starts at noon in the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, said Poway Soroptimists President Linda England.

“We have the 5th Dimension performing, we are asking attendees to dress ‘60s style,” England said. “We will also have it (reflected) in our backdrops, props, flowers. There will be bright colors.”

The proceeds will support several programs the two Soroptimist chapters conduct throughout the year to assist women and children. These include a Transitional Housing program for domestic violence victims, college scholarships and mentorship activities. Other philanthropic activities help human trafficking victims, foster children, senior women and female military veterans.

“We are hoping to match what was raised in 2019, which was $130,000,” England said.

While some attendees might choose to wear decorated fancy hats as in years prior, England said hairpieces could also include floral headbands for a “flower power” look or pill box style hats.

“2019 was our last in-person Hats & Heels. While we held two virtually that were successful, they were not the same,” England said. “We are looking forward to being back together.”

Tickets are only being sold in advance. They are $150 per person or $1,500 for a table seating 10. Purchase at

Singer/songwriter Floyd A. Smith from The 5th Dimension entertained attendees during the 2019 Hats & Heels.

Singer/songwriter Floyd A. Smith from The 5th Dimension entertained attendees during the 2019 Hats & Heels.

(Elizabeth Marie Himchak)

Singer/songwriter Floyd A. Smith from The 5th Dimension entertained at the 2019 event. This time the entire group will perform, Poway Soroptimist Mary Mitchell said.

The event also will feature live and silent auctions, a wine pull ($20 for a surprise bottle valued between $20 to $100) and dream bags. Poway Soroptimist Peggy Stewart, who is in charge of this part of the event, said 60 dream bags filled with various surprise gifts will go for $60.

“Each is different, with a number of really interesting items,” Stewart said.

Those not attending Hats & Heels can support the cause by purchasing a dream bag or bidding in the silent auction online. The silent auction items will be available for preview starting April 8 on the event’s website, and bidding will open on April 15.

Stewart said at least 80 items will be featured in the silent auction, including theater and dinner packages, several getaways to local and outside-the-area venues, purses, wine packages, restaurant gift cards, items for children and golf packages.

People traditionally start bidding before the event, Stewart said, and the online option gives people near and far an opportunity to participate. Stewart said she has mailed auction items to bidders in Texas and New York City

The live auction, only for attendees, will feature several “exciting items,” Stewart said, including a stay and golf package in Palm Springs, a week in Hawaii, contemporary necklace and earring set from Unicorn Jewelry, and a sushi chef preparing dinner for 10 at the bidder’s home.

In addition to the luncheon, the event will include San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan as the speaker and a video highlighting some of the event’s beneficiaries through the Soroptimists’ programs.

Part of the money goes to the Soroptimists’ Transitional Housing program, which the two chapters support together.

England said she has been involved in the Transitional Housing program since its founding it 1997. It began as a joint program with the Poway, Rancho Bernardo (now called North San Diego) and Ramona Soroptimist chapters after someone from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department spoke about the need to assist women and their children who are leaving domestic violence shelters and rebuilding their lives.

That first year, the Soroptimists received a grant from Palomar Health to provide support for one family. Over the years, the program expanded, the Ramona Soroptimists decided to instead focus their efforts on human trafficking victims and eventually up to six families at the same time were being assisted, according to England.

Currently, the North San Diego and Poway chapters are assisting five families for 12 months by providing an apartment and other assistance, including mentorship to the women who are rebuilding their lives.

“A lot of the money is rent, that is the majority of the budget,” England said.

Other costs include $300 in groceries and grocery gift cards to help each family when they move in, $100 per child for back-to-school needs and $100 per person for the holidays. The Soroptimists also furnish the apartments. Much of the furniture is donated, but $500 is allocated for additional furnishings.

Each family is provided a computer and there is money for special needs. These could include costs for the woman to obtain her GED or to provide a few extras for her children, such as summer camp or sports participation fees.

Jacque Multerer, Jen Bergo, Nicole Sigall and Penny Nauman at the 2019 Hats & Heels.

Jacque Multerer, Jen Bergo, Nicole Sigall and Penny Nauman at the 2019 Hats & Heels.

(Elizabeth Marie Himchak)

Through Crisis House, the women meet with a counselor and case manager weekly as they work over 12 months to get in a position where they can support their children, England said. Some women need assistance with legal issues, such as obtaining a restraining order or divorce, and job training.

“The Soroptimists help with identifying resources and are good listeners,” she added.

Upon “graduation” the women can take their furnishings to their next apartment.

Since the program began in 1997, the Soroptimists have assisted 79 women and 190 children. Over the past 10 years, the success rate of families successfully transitioning out of the program and into permanent housing away from their abuser has been 75 percent, England said.

“It warms my heart to see the women helped and kids’ lives (improved),” England said. “Domestic violence can cycle to the next generation if it doesn’t stop … we break that cycle of abuse.”

She said the children, seeing their mother abused, could also tolerate being with an abuser when they are older or become an abuser if they continue growing up in such a household.

“I have mentored,” England said. “These are great women who deserve our assistance.”

The rest of the Hats & Heels proceeds will be divided between the two chapters’ separate philanthropic programs. These include the Dream It, Be It program for high school girls and the Live Your Dream scholarships for women who are their family’s head of household and enrolled in school.

“What I love is the fact we are going back to the Fairmont,” said Stewart, a Soroptimist for 32 years. “It is such a gorgeous venue. I love all the excitement of being all dressed up.”

“It is a fun day out,” she added. “There are a lot of the same people, but a lot of new people too. We have not seen each other for three years.”


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