'Remarkable' Jo chosen to be part of a special campaign to mark group's centenary milestone
An inspirational Cleveleys woman has been chosen to be part of a special campaign to mark Soroptimist International’s centenary this year.
Vourneen Darbyshire, known as Jo to family and friends, will feature in the #Who Is She? campaign, which celebrates the outstanding personal and professional work of 100 of its members.
Jo, 76, is a long-standing member of Soroptimist International Blackpool and District, a volunteer organisation which strives to improve the lives of girls and women worldwide.
She said: “My life has been greatly enriched by being a Soroptimist.
“It must be the international organisation to belong to because it is local and global, giving service and friendship, providing opportunity and satisfaction to ensure progress for women and
Jo was born into a farming family as the Second World War ended and grew up on a farm on Bull Park Lane, Hambleton.
She was educated at Elmslie Girls’ School, Blackpool, and then trained at Guildford College of Law, before being admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in 1970.
Jo, whose maiden name was Lewtas, returned to live locally and worked in her husband Rowland’s family law firm for the next 40 years.
The couple have two sons, Robert and Charles, and four grandchildren.
During her career, Jo became involved in local voluntary organisations and used her legal expertise to assist people when problems arose.
Invited to join SI Blackpool in 1981, Jo has held local and regional north west roles and was honoured to be elected the Federation President of Great Britain and Ireland in 1997 with
further international involvement spanning 18 years.
Jo served as a governor at Blackpool Sixth Form from 1993 to 1997. She has also chaired the Blackpool Citizen’s Advice Bureau and a succession of NHS commissioning boards in
Blackpool and Lancashire.
In 2007, Jo was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire, which led to nine years of involvement in the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
As a member of SI Blackpool and District, when the Club was bequeathed several houses in the area, Jo was able to advise the members about housing associations and their possible
uses. It led to a long and continued relationship between the SI and Fylde Coast Women’s Aid.
Blackpool and District Soroptimists celebrate their sixtieth anniversary in 2021 and their work continues in the community, as it has for the past six decades.
Christine Fairhurst, acting president of Soroptimist International of Blackpool and District, said: “I have known Jo for 24 years, a remarkable person who is a hardworking, caring member
of our club with the ability to tackle problems and find solutions.
“She has achieved a great deal as a Soroptimist, in her professional life and the wider community.
“Jo has been President of Blackpool and District Soroptimists three times and has been involved in many different projects promoting wellbeing and improving the lives of women and girls,
locally and internationally.
“Jo is an amazing woman, a valued friend and a valued member of our club.”
For more information about the SI, visit www.sigbi.org/blackpool-and-district
Meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month at North Shore Golf Club. During the pandemic, Zoom meetings are held.
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