Zonta celebrates milestone anniversaries

It was a night of celebration as members and friends of the Zonta Club of Alpena gathered recently to mark the 50th anniversary of the local club’s formation.

The Zonta Club of Alpena/Tri-County Area had reason to celebrate as well since 2013 also marks that organization’s 25th anniversary.

The two clubs held a joint banquet at the Sanctuary Inn, which began with a welcome from Zonta Club of Alpena’s only remaining charter member, Alice Silver. She gave a brief history of how the organization first got started in 1963 despite some skepticism that there would ever be enough professional women in the city to form such a club.

Fifty years later, the organization looked back on all its many accomplishments that include giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to community causes that range from providing for a Fire Safety House for the City of Alpena Fire Department and a private chemotherapy room at Alpena Cancer Center to supporting Shelter, Inc., Faith & Hope Hospitality House and the Mammography Subsidy Fund at Alpena Regional Medical Center.

Silver was honored later in the festivities with special recognition awards from both the district and international levels of Zonta. Also recognized were members Mabel Joseph, who has been a member for 49 years, and Theresa Stoppa, who has been a member for 41 years.

Zonta Club of Alpena President Joyce Brilinski introduced many of the evening’s guests, which included Mayor Matt Waligora, Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jackie Krawczak and Beverly Bodem, district liaison for State Sen. John Moolenaar.

Waligora praised the Zontians for all the good they have done in the community over the last half century. He then read a proclamation from the city made on their behalf. Krawczak also offered words of appreciation, and Bodem read a special tribute from the state legislature.

Both Brilinski and Peggy Donakowski, president of Zonta Club of Alpena/Tri-County Area, spoke briefly of the accomplishments of their respective clubs. Brilinski said the Zonta Club of Alpena has been able to raise a considerable amount of money to give back to the community, but that it didn’t do so without help.

“We did it with the help of the community,” Brilinski said. “People show up and help us. At this year’s walk (Zonta Walks for Women Breast Cancer Awareness Walk/5K Run), over 700 people participated despite the rain, and we raised over $30,000 from the event to give to the Mammography Subsidy Fund.”

Brilinski also said the club she leads has helped to charter three other clubs, including Tri-County, Rogers City Zonta Club and the Roscommon Zonta Club.

In her remarks, Donakowski recognized Tri-County member Pam Werth, who is an original charter member of that group. She also talked about the various programs their club has supported, including Girls on the Run, Inland Seas Scholarships for Young Women, a mother’s room at ARMC and Shelter, Inc.

Keynote speaker for the evening as Karen Armaly, Zonta International District 15 governor.

“Fifty years is a long time,” Armaly said in her address. “You are still together and still going strong. You share a wonderful past.”

Armaly provided a history of the founding of the Zonta organization, which began in 1919 in Buffalo, N.Y. This worldwide organization now includes more than 30,000 members and 1,200 clubs in 65 countries around the world. Its mission is to advance the economic, educational, health and professional status of women both globally and locally.

Other Zonta officials in attendance were District 15 Lt. Gov. Cheryl Hall and District 15 Area 1 Director Anna Sylvester.

In honor of the current Zonta International campaign of “Zonta Says No to Violence Against Women,” the Zonta Club of Alpena made a special donation of $500 to Shelter, Inc., the local non-profit agency for victims of domestic violence. The worldwide Zonta campaign is an effort to raise awareness of and increase actions to end violence against women and girls around the globe through service and advocacy.

Sandra Lewis, executive director of Shelter, Inc., accepted the donation and spoke of how her organization is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

“It is an honor to be here and accept yet another donation from Zonta,” said Lewis, mindful of the continued support of both local clubs.

Providing musical entertainment for the evening was the Besser Chorus, which sang a medley of Christmas tunes under the direction of Bunny Lyon.