The year 1966 may feel like a lifetime ago to some. The past 50 years much has changed about the world. While the political climate still leaves many to ponder, there is no disputing many of the changes and their effects on the world at large.
In 1966, there was no internet or google, no cell phones, no texting and public transportation in the Bay Area was still restricted to cable car, trolley and busses. This was the year that Marge Cruz would be invited by her stepmother to join a service club where she would not only make friends, but assist in change for women and children.
In 1966, while living in the Bay Area, Cruz became a member of Soroptimist International of Hayward.
“She was a partner at the accounting firm I worked at,” Cruz said of her stepmother, “and she encouraged me to get involved.”
Some 50 years later, at a luncheon hosted in honor of her service, many Oakdale women gave the same credit to Cruz.
Soroptimist International of Oakdale President Nancy Lilly was one such member.
“Marge has always been like a second mom to me,” Lilly shared with the group, noting relocating to Oakdale a newlywed with young children, the two first became acquainted while working at the City of Oakdale Office. “I will never forget the way she treated me like a daughter.”
Lilly first became acquainted with the SIO group in 1993, when Cruz solicited her help choreographing the fitness routine for the Junior Miss (now known as Distinguished Young Women) Program. The following year, Lilly herself became an SIO member.
“She’s been my mentor all these years. It’s just always been such a pleasure,” Lilly said.
“Girls come and their parents follow along,” Cruz said of the scholarship program hosted each year by the local service club, “and then the girls go onto college. The parents stay. Some are still helping us with that event each year.”
Cruz herself first became an Oakdale Soroptimist member in 1974, shortly after relocating to Oakdale.
“I found Soroptimist immediately,” she said of the Oakdale club, noting a simple trip to take care of some local banking, resulted in an invitation to a local meeting.
“I went from then on,” she said. “I thought I could transfer my membership, and they didn’t know what to do with me.
“Everybody was so friendly and they were doing things that were important,” she continued, pointing to the club’s involvement with youth and senior projects.
While Cruz enjoyed her time as a Bay Area Soroptmist member, she recognized the difference in being a member of a club in the city for which she lived.
“Bay Area people don’t live and work in the same community,” she said, sharing this in turn makes a difference on the impact of the club’s involvement within the community.
“Here you’re involved with everything that’s on going,” she stated. “I loved getting mixed up in all of it. I wasn’t here a month without everyone saying hi to me like I was an old timer. I liked that part of the community.”
During her 50 years of service, the longstanding member has never been one to rest on her laurels or leave the work for someone else.
“She walked the talk,” Charliene Miceli said during the luncheon. “This woman worked me to the bone, but it was well worth it because I learned so much from Marge.”
“You were truly a leader right from the beginning,” fellow past member Barbara Marquis echoed. “Through thick and thin we’ve come a long way.”
As the longstanding member looks back, she acknowledges the changes of the club, mostly in membership. A large number of members now are retired. Meeting attendance is smaller than it once was, younger women tend to be more tied up with children, school and extracurricular activities.
“We used to do a lot of things at night and husbands would come to installations at night,” Cruz reminisced. “We’ve had a lot of fun. It’s like a family, and they help one another. It’s a very close group of people.”
It’s also something that Cruz feels makes Oakdale such a special place.
“I just can’t get over how much help we get in the community,” she concluded, “and how much they continue to give.”