A century of service
ALPENA — This women’s club was founded before women in the U.S. had the right to vote.
Now, a century later, Zonta International boasts more than 29,000 members wordwide in 63 countries, still advancing the mission of empowering and supporting women through advocacy, scholarships and service.
Its mission states, “Zonta International is a leading global organization of professionals empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy.”
Founded on Nov. 8, 1919, in Buffalo, N.Y., it was first called the Confederation of Zonta Clubs. Then in 1930 its name changed to Zonta International, with the chartering of the first European Zonta Club.
“Zonta International envisions a world in which women’s rights are recognized as human rights and every woman is able to achieve her full potential,” the vision declares. “In such a world, women have access to all resources and are represented in decision making positions on an equal basis with men. In such a world, no woman lives in fear of violence.”
Two Zonta Clubs exist in Alpena, one that meets in the daytime and another that meets in the evening. Both clubs share the same mission and work together on some events and projects, and have some on their own as well. The Zonta Club of Alpena was chartered on Nov. 23, 1963. That club meets monthly at noon.
“The Zonta Club of Alpena, as a member of Zonta International, strives to empower and enrich the lives of women in our community and worldwide through education, service, advocacy, and financial support,” the local club’s vision statement reads.
They helped charter the second club, Zonta Club of Alpena Tri County, in 1988. Joyce McCoy and Midge Schultz started the groundwork for the evening club in 1987, and saw their efforts come to fruition with their first meeting in May 1988.
Both groups will gather together on Nov. 12 in celebration of the Zonta International Centennial. Past members are welcome to attend the celebration.
Zonta Club of Alpena Charter board members include President Margaret Knechtel, Vice President Carol Welch, Secretary Mildred DesChamps, Treasurer Leota Murphy, Directors Gladys Bouchard, Lois Reagan and Alice Silver. Members include Jean Bruyette, Florence Converse, Margaret Cole, Wilma Erickson, Ann Gray, Evelyn Hunter, Aurora Hunter, Leoma Kowalski, Ann Martinson, Clara Noack, Lillian Roberts, Catherine Seehase, Julia Stratton, Alice Wachterhauser, Zona Lee Wilson, Clairebel Wixson, Carol Young, ClayVera VanderWall and June Zimmerman.
Past presidents include Margaret Knechtel, Carol Welch, Lois Reagan, Alice Silver, Lillian Tracey, Dorothy Kemp, Betty Krueger, Kay LaCross, Theresa Stoppa, Danielda Sanborn, Marie Deno, Shirley Abend, Phyllis Ratz, Roberta Helms, Lois Centala, Jan Miller, Gail Authier, Sandra Donajkowski, Caryl Kaiser, Judy Courtney, Pauline Prevo, Marianne Ray and more.
Cindy Gabara is the current president for 2019-2020. Denise Tobias is vice president, Kim LaBrecque is treasurer, Eileen Budnick is assistant treasurer, Melissa Chabot is corresponding secretary, Mary Linton is recording secretary. Two-year directors are Natalie Nadeau and Pam Richardson. One-year directors are Dawn Waters and Jo’Lee Dorie, and Mabel Joseph is parliamentarian. In addition to the board of directors, committee chairs include Theresa Stoppa, Joyce Brilinski, Diane O’Connor, Stacey Smith, Karen Kamyszek and Mary Eagan.
Gabara’s mother, Hazel Crittenden, was in Zonta for 25 years. She started Hazel’s Closet, with gently used professional clothing for women, “for women who were getting into the workforce, or re-entering the workforce,” Gabara said.
The Zonta Club still offers gift certificates to women who need professional clothing for work. Both groups support various efforts to help women by raising funds to benefit nonprofits such as Hope Shores Alliance women’s shelter. They support the annual Zonta Walks for Women, a breast cancer awareness walk. The also hold domestic violence awareness events, and charity auctions and programs to advocate for women’s rights and equality.
“My mother was always so enthusiastic about supporting women,” said Gabara. After her mother passed, Gabara followed in her footsteps, joining Zonta in January 2001. “And that’s what I love about it. … I’ve been to two or three international conventions. … I’m helping women worldwide who don’t have even a fraction of what we have here.”
Tobias joined in June 2005.
“Overall, I really think that we make a difference in many women’s lives,” Tobias said. “I’m out there to help women.”
Pam Werth joined Zonta Club of Alpena in October 1991.
“The reason I joined was because I was involved a lot at my church, and I was involved a lot at work, but I wanted to do something more,” Werth said. “When I heard about Zonta, I thought, ‘Well, that’s perfect.’ I can be a promoter of women, and be involved in the community.”
Zonta also supports Girls on the Run, and a wide variety of scholarships for women going into different fields.
Zonta International Centennial Anniversary Grants totaling $296,271 will be disbursed to 62 organizations in 18 countries.
Those interested in joining may contact Denise Tobias at email@example.com for daytime meetings (Zonta Club of Alpena), or Ann Weir at firstname.lastname@example.org for evening meetings (Zonta Club of Alpena Tri-County.)
The Zonta Club of Alpena Fall into Fashion fundraiser is from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the 19th Hole. Tickets are $25. Call Kim at 989-464-4497.