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Violet Richardson Award

Do you know a young woman age 14-18 who works to make the community a better place? Does she have experience working for an organization that improves the lives of others? Is she passionate about making a difference through tenacity and problem-solving skills? If so, she is encouraged to apply for the Violet Richardson Award.

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 Soroptimist International of Novato is passionate about working to improve the lives of women and girls on a local and global scale by providing resources to underserved women and girls, and raising awareness about issues they face. We are looking to honor a young woman who has demonstrated a desire to improve her community. This can be by solving an issue at school, working towards fixing a community problem, or improving a situation that faces women and girls. The possibilities are endless, and we encourage her to apply for the chance to be rewarded for her volunteer actions! If she either goes to school, lives or works in Novato, she is eligible to apply for this award. The club level winner will receive up to $1,000. Part of the award may go to the organization where the winner volunteers to help further support its efforts.


If the above criteria describes someone you know, we encourage you to forward this application to her for the chance to be recognized. The deadline for submission has been extended to December 31. If you have any questions, please contact Vicki Campbell, Chair of the Violet Richardson Award.  


Home: (415) 892-7370

Cell: (415) 987-5507

2020 Winners

Elizabeth DeRuvo won the First Place Violet Richardson Award for $1,000.

At the age of six Elizabeth asked her mom one cold winter night, "What happens to the homeless on cold nights?"  Her mom responded that "unfortunately they have to sleep outside or if they are lucky they will be able to sleep at a shelter". The next morning, Elizabeth began taking blankets from her home and insisted to her mom, that they drive them around town passing blankets out to people they saw in need.  


Elizabeth expanded her efforts by sending a letter to family, friends, neighbors and classmates asking for donations of blankets and socks for the homeless in her town.   The outcome was overwhelming and as a result, she was able to help hundreds of people in need.


She received an award from the County of Marin Board of Supervisors naming her the sole recipient of the "2010 Look Who's Getting It Done Award" and was also invited to New York to be interviewed on The Nate Berkus Show which highlighted her efforts working with the homeless. In 2011, Elizabeth was also awarded the prestigious "American Red Cross Community Hero Award".  


Elizabeth continued her work in 2018, to provide help to people in the CAMP Fire in Paradise, California. She teamed up with the San Marin Athletics program to setup donation bins at football games. They then took these donations to the fire victims at the Torres Shelter in Chico.


Operation Warm Winter still provides help to people in need. See her website for ways to help: We are reminded, that all of this started because "One little girl took blankets from a closet and offered them to those in need. One person CAN make a difference!”

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Elizabeth DeRuvo

Ashley (Max) Leonard also won a First Place Violet Richardson Award for $1,000.

"On September 27, 2012, a girl named Hailey was struck by an SUV and died a few hours later. I feel that if the intersection had not been so intimidating to kids, Hailey might still be here today."  Max has been volunteering to improve the safety of the intersection near San Marin High School. "I noticed two issues: there was poor infrastructure, and reckless behavior of drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. Through my work I earned a Girl Scout Gold Award, and a Proclamation from the City of Novato honoring my efforts and dedication."


First, Max targeted infrastructure improvements of the intersection and took the issues to the Novato Public Works department. "I worked on the Project Initiation Document for the City Engineer that was used to receive City Council approval to move forward with the development of a Capital Improvement Plan. Evidence of progress is the re-paving along Novato Blvd. which includes a multi-modal pathway adjacent to San Marin High, a crosswalk at Dwarf Oak Trail, bike paths and new lane striping."


Max also worked with "Safe Routes to School" Program Director, Gwen Froh. These programs decrease traffic and pollution and increase the health of children and the community. They focused on student and parent driving, biking and walking behavior through the intersection as well as evaluating appropriate student drop off and pick up and school regulations. "I worked with Safe Routes to School and designed a curriculum called 'Share the Road Campaign' that addressed these issues which were implemented in the 9th grade health classes at San Marin High School.”


"Once the infrastructure at this intersection is improved the greater community will be safer. This traffic safety improvement will also significantly reduce CO2 emissions affecting Earth’s climate. I gathered support from the general public as well as the following committees:  Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), Novato Unified School District (NUSD) Trustees, Novato Planning Commission, and the Novato City Council.  The ultimate goal is to create a safer intersection for the community and to prevent a horrible incident from ever happening again."

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Ashley (Max) Leonard

2019 Winners

Evelyn Zavala-Torres won the First Place Violet Richardson Award for $800 with an additional $200 going to the Dreamer’s Program at Novato High School led by Ms. Cinthia Angelicola to help students in the English Learning Development Department.  Samples of what she did to earn this award:

  • Developed a pamphlet of all the staff members at school that spoke Spanish so the students knew who they could go to for help.

  • Visited classrooms to work with ELD students.

  • Tutored ELD students.

  • Created posters about school events so ELD students could be informed and attend dances and other events.

  • Translated and filmed school announcements in Spanish with other ELD students willing to be on screen.

  • Attended a panel in a leadership summit and spoke to ELD students at other high schools to show what could be done in classes to make things more inclusive for all ELD students.


*NEWS UPDATE*  Evelyn was awarded an extra $500 because she also won First Place at the District IV level in our Region.  Congrats, Evelyn!!

Gabriela Reales-Herrera won the runner-up award for $400 with an additional $100 awarded to Lynwood Elementary School LEAP Program where she volunteered for two years. Samples of things Gabby did to earn this award:

  • Translated for Spanish speakers in the classes.

  • Helped students and assisted teachers in reading, art, and other programs acting as the translator.


Evelyn Zavala-Torres


Gabby Reales

2018 Winners

Julia Schulman won the First Place award for $500 with an additional $500 also going to the organization where she volunteers, the YMCA Youth Court. She earned this award by working on a program of restorative justice and rehabilitation, working to find the reasoning behind the crime, whether it be an addiction, family trauma, and other issues that come up in a young person’s life.  Julia was nominated by the leader of the Youth Court, Don Carney, to join the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission as a youth member.  Julia stated that winning the VRA award "allowed me a platform to express my passion for restorative justice... I was honored to be picked after hearing all of the excellent candidates and their work in the community... I hope to be able to continue to advocate for restorative justice and judicial change in the future."

News Update -- Julia wins an extra $500 by being the top choice at the District IV Level.  Congratulations, Julia!

Damaris Marrufo won a runner-up award for $200 with an additional $100 also going to the organization where she volunteers, Novato Spirit.  Damaris earned this award by helping kids who witness domestic violence and bullying through music, dance, sports and   other programs.  Damaris is also part of the Novato Police Explorer program.  She’s been nominated for a Youth Volunteer Award with the Heart of Marin Awards.


Elizabeth Posylkin also won a runner-up award for $200 with an additional $100 going to the organization where she volunteers, Marin Teen Girl’s Conference, and her sponsor is Chris Shaw.  Elizabeth earned this award by implementing workshops that teach physical self-defense against physical abuse.  She has won other awards such as the first annual Marin Teen Girl of the Year given by the Marin Women’s Hall of Fame and the first annual Dietrich Stroeh Novato Youth Volunteer of the Year. Elizabeth stated that winning the VRA award "is a symbol of achievement for my work through the community... It showed me that my community and the people around me care about the work I am doing and feel it is important to support young women in community service and their college paths."


Vicki Campbell (l) congratulates Julia Schulman for first place VRA. Don Carney accepted a donation to the Youth Court.


Vicki Campbell (l) congratulates Damaris Marrufo as a runner-up VRA recipient.


Vicki Campbell (l) congratulates Elizabeth Posylkin and her sponsors Amanda Grey and Chris Shaw (not shown).

2017 Winner

The Violet Richardson Award for $1,000 was given to Dajahnaee Straiten, a sophomore at San Marin High School, for her volunteer activities dedicated to improving the school climate for LGBTQ community and helping to start gender neutral bathrooms. She also participated in a roundtable with Congressman Huffman to discuss issues affecting the LGBTQ community.

L-R: Dajahnaee Straiten, award winner, and Vicki Campbell, Soroptimist member

2016 Winners

Sarah Helmueller, San Marin High student, received $1,000 as first-place prize.  Working with the Marine Mammal Center, Helmueller designed and implemented a curriculum about climate change, ocean trash, and what students can do to help. Kacey Rhinehart, Novato High student, received $500 for the second-place prize.  She produced videos to help get older animals adopted at the Marin Humane Society.

L-R: Rocio Gonzalez, Sally Jung, Emily Nam, Sarah Helmueller,

and Kacey Rhinehart

Rocio Gonzalez, Sally Jung, and Emily Nam received $200 each as runner-up prizes.  Gonzalez represents non-English speaking students who are afraid to speak up about inclusion activities.  Jung visited Syrian refugee camps as a member of InterCP and has provided relief aid, art therapy, support, fun, and games for refugee children.  Nam has organized lunchtime study groups to help San Marin students succeed in all subjects.

2015 Winners

NEWS UPDATE!  Cloe wins an extra $500 by being the top choice at the District Level! Congratulations go to her!

A teen's life is busy: dealing with the pressures of "growing up," school, homework, and often working a part-time job.

Despite these demands, young women in Novato are setting time aside for volunteering to make a difference in their community. Soroptimist International of Novato recently awarded the Violet Richardson Award to two inspiring young ladies: Cloe Grechis was awarded $1000, and Alicia Daniela Rodas, $500. 

Cloe is an active volunteer with the Center for Domestic Peace, a local women's shelter and organization offering services for victims of domestic violence.  She works in Marin Against Youth Abuse (MAYA), a branch of the organization founded four years ago to provide programs specifically for teens.  MAYA strives to raise awareness in Marin high schools about the very serious issue of teen dating violence, affecting about one in three adolescents. It’s an issue not often discussed or taken seriously.  Through planned events at school— informational booths, assembly presentations, games, posters and flyers, MAYA gets the message out.   Cloe also presents workshops at Novato High to health and psychology classes on recognizing some of the warning signs, and the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships. 


Alicia has been President of Interact at San Marin, which carries out two service projects every year, and the California Scholarship Federation, and has also spent time educating Spanish-speaking parents as a coordinator for the Parents Institute for Quality Education.  She is now the Project Leader of the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership (CVNL) where she helps facilitate healthy meals for 200 homeless people every Sunday by recruiting and coordinating volunteers.


The Violet Richardson Award is named for Soroptimist’s first president, who believed, “It’s what you do that counts.”

2014 Winners

A teen’s life is busy: dealing with the pressures of “growing up,” going to school, devoting many hours to homework, and often working a part-time job. Despite these demands, young women in Novato are setting time aside for volunteering—to make a difference in their community. Two such inspiring volunteers are Caroline Cirby from Novato High School and Olivia Murillo from San Marin High School. 


For Caroline’s dedication and perseverance, Soroptimist International of Novato recently awarded her the Violet Richardson Award in the amount of $1,000, and Olivia was awarded $500 as the runner-up.  The program recognizes young women who make the community and world a better place.


Caroline is an active volunteer with the Marin Women’s Commission as a Marin Teen Ambassador currently working to create the Marin Teen Girl Conference. This conference gave her a chance to help friends and family, to provide resources to other girls, and to inspire other girls to become anything they wanted. She advocates most for anti-bullying and mental health workshops, including starting the “Kind Club” at her school to raise awareness of girl-on-girl bullying.  At club meetings they discuss girls’ experiences and ways they can help one another. Caroline leads twenty girls to plan the fifth annual conference that reaches out to about 250 girls and she’s also applied for grants to raise money for the conference.


Olivia has worked for the Youth Leadership Institute for the past three years and the Blue Ribbon Coalition for Youth for the past year. Both of these organizations work toward a healthier Novato and specifically, against underage drinking and drug use. These organizations make special efforts to employ youth leadership and for youth to have more responsibilities and greater voices to solve problems that young people face. She has spoken many times about prevalent issues in our community, including to the Board of Supervisors, the Superintendent and the Mayor of Novato.

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