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Soroptimist leader earns $10,000 to fight sex trafficking

Sue Riney, governor of the Soroptimist International Northwestern Region, shows off her governor badge. Riney has worked to improve the lives of women for nearly 25 years and her efforts recently resulted in a $10,000 check from her employer. - Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times
Sue Riney, governor of the Soroptimist International Northwestern Region, shows off her governor badge. Riney has worked to improve the lives of women for nearly 25 years and her efforts recently resulted in a $10,000 check from her employer.
— image credit: Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times

As governor of the Soroptimist International Northwestern Region, Oak Harbor resident Sue Riney oversees the efforts of thousands of women across five states.

Spend a few minutes talking with her and it’s easy to see why she’s the right person for the job. After nearly 25 years of volunteering with Soroptimist and a similar group, Riney still gets fired up when talking about improving the lives of women everywhere.

“Being part of the community and being able to give back is part of my nature and is how I was raised,” she said.

It’s a good thing too because her efforts recently paid off in a big way, a $10,000 big way. Riney, a project manager with Wells Fargo for the past 30 years, is one of about 15 employees across the country to win the bank’s internal volunteer service program award.

The money will go to the Northwest Coalition Against Trafficking, an arm of Soroptimist dedicated to informing, educating, and protecting women and girls from human labor and sex trafficking. All of the money is going towards a new shelter for such women in Portland, Ore.

“Sue has shown incredible dedication to Soroptimist through her 24 years of service in a variety of capacities,” said Liz Allen, a vice president with Wells Fargo in a press release. “... Our team members are sharing their time and talents to help their neighborhoods and communities succeed. Their giving spirits not only help communities but also help us better determine how the company can support communities.”

This isn’t the first time Riney has won money from the program. Riney was once awarded $1,000 for Whidbey Playhouse, a local nonprofit theater group. She was the organization’s executive director for 24 years.

Her workload as regional governor recently forced her to step down from the position, along with her seven-year role as choir director for Whidbey Presbyterian Church.

Riney said she was thrilled to win the award a second time, but there is one downside. She won’t be able to apply for the bank program again for another five years, she said with a laugh.

That’s unfortunate because the coalition against trafficking needs every cent it can get. According to Riney, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has identified Seattle as the No. 1 city in the country for sex trafficking. Portland is a close second.

Many of those that fit into the sex trafficking criteria are runaways who are picked up and forced into prostitution. Riney said people may not think that kind of thing happens in Washington, but it’s a reality.

“It’s so sad to think of,” she said.

Riney volunteers at least 60 hours a month for her job as regional governor. While the hours can be long, and sometimes tedious, it is deeply fulfilling work. She also believes she has been blessed with the gift of leadership and that is something she can’t let go to waste.

“You have to use all the God-given talents you were given to make a difference,” Riney said.

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