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Women of Distinction: Martha Deichler, Betsy Knaak


Last updated 2/20/2019 at 3:12pm

It goes without question that when you empower and educate a girl, you lead her to empowering a nation, and even the world.

Point made, as two Borregan women, who are beyond altruistic and kind-hearted, have changed lives for those they meet, wherever they go.

Martha Deichler and Betsy Knaak are the first recipients of the "Women of Distinction Award," presented by Soroptimist International of Borrego Springs at the first "Hats off to Women" event at the de Anza Country Club Jan. 27.

It should go as no surprise to anyone on why these two women were chosen, the list goes on and on. Whether they are helping children, friends, the park, the schools, they are a phone call away, lending a hand or organizing something to make it easier for everyone else.

Betsy Knaak is a kind, gentle, stellar woman, as her kindness can fill more stars than one can gaze here in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Martha Deichler, as everyone may know with her wit and jubilant personality, which can be spotted from miles away. If not that, then her voice can be heard possibly from one side of the park to the other.

This was the first time Soroptimist International of Borrego Springs held this event, and was ecstatic of the turnout, which was over 100, and glad that many of the women who showed up went along with the "hats" theme. From baseball caps, sun hats to wild foot and a half tropical hats you may not quite see at the horse races, it was an extraordinary event to honor two extraordinary women.

Judy Stewart, president of the Borrego Springs chapter, welcomed those in attendance, who were enjoying the chicken pasta lunch made by the de Anza Country Club. She said started off by saying, "When girls have educated moms, they're more likely to stay in school, and reach higher levels of education. When girls go to school, they are more likely to get decent paying jobs, their families benefit, our community benefits, our nation benefits, and the world becomes a better place. Can I get an amen?"

Stewart thanked the corporate event sponsors – Anson Construction, La Casa del Zorro, Palms at Indian Head, Oakwood Escrow, Backyard Lagoon Pool and Spa and Tito's Auto Care.

She described Knaak and Deichler in a few words – optimistic, can do attitude, persistent, strong and powerful voiced, passionate, living with authenticity, and strong willed and confident.

First to be introduced was Knaak, in which Deichler belted out, "why does she get to go first?" as everyone laughed. Classic Martha, right?

Andrea Taylor, who met Knaak when inquiring about the office manager position at the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association, spoke a few words about her, starting with the fact that it was a successful interview since she's now entering her 11th year on the job.

"There are many reasons Betsy stands before you as one of the Woman of the Year," she said. "Her enthusiasm for new ideas and programs at ABDNHA, enhances the understanding and education of our amazing town and desert to both locals and visitors."

She then spoke about how Knaak was the motivation for ABDNHA's botanical garden and spearheading the Borrego Dark Sky group, working diligently with the committee, and adding her passion for education and involvement with the Borrego Unified School District and its cooperation with ABDNHA. Adding to her passion and drive, Betsy assisted the Friends of the Library fundraiser involving the fixtures and fittings, keeping the vision of the library the way residents in Borrego Springs wanted it, Taylor added.

"Thank you Betsy for all you have given to enhance our community, educate others, and your dedication to ABDNHA, this community, and friends and family," Taylor closed in her statement.

Knaak followed and thanked all in attendance, and said she is humbled by this honor, holding back tears, but assured everyone that she cries when she's happy.

"To me, it's an honor by my peers because we're in a room full of distinguished, committed, dedicated and generous people," she said. "I always felt that I was a piece in a wheel that helps Borrego go where we all wear so many hats."

Knaak joked about how it felt like she was at a wedding reception with friends and family without having to do the wedding, and all chuckled.

In her statement, she talked about how people read about ways to say no, but said, "I can tell you all the good things when you say yes."

With that, she sees it as others believing in you because they know you can do it, and said that is a lesson for young ladies to know.

"When people ask you, they have confidence in you and your ability to do it, and sometimes, it's just jumping in there to and give it the best you got," Knaak said. "I think that's a lot of what I've been doing, and I couldn't have done it without everybody." She thanked the Soroptimist's for all that they do and for giving girls in Borrego the confidence and courage to do what they dream.

"My hats off to friendship, and all that you do for Borrego," she closed.

In between breaks, raffle winners were announced, and it seemed as though one table had all the luck. Gift baskets, which were carefully made by Soroptimist members, all had its own theme – from gardening tools to all about dogs, each were made with care and fun little prizes inside.

Tracy McFarland then shared a few words about Deichler, starting with the fact that it was hard to write a speech about her fun loving personality, in under five minutes.

"Her resilience in doing all of this, and more, is in spite of beating cancer twice, and that speaks for itself," she said.

McFarland described Deichler's nurturing characteristics for her family, and those around her, sharing the passion she carries to each individual she meets, holding up her part in the sky.

Deichler got up to speak and joked about how she hopes her and Knaak will still love each other after the next couple of months because she is putting a huge star gazing deck at her home that looks right over Knaak's kitchen.

Vice president Elizabeth Rodriguez presented two plaques to Knaak and Deichler for, "outstanding service in her community, for working in extraordinary ways to benefit women and girls, for demonstrating exemplary character leadership and serving as a role model for other women."

After a few more raffle tickets, Julia Anguiano, recipient of the 2018 Live Your Dream Award spoke a few words, and stated what it meant to her to be a part of this organization.

Soroptimist International is a global volunteer organization that improves the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. The Borrego Springs chapter was chartered in 1962, and since then, the upmost love and support has been constant and non-stop, providing student scholarships, small business grants, career workshops and mentorship support.

Full article in the Feb. 7 issue of the Borrego Sun.