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Beline Obeid

Zonta Club working to advance the status of women

Jody McVeigh Editor

Photo courtesy of Kristine Shalla Board members of Zonta Club Detroit 1 include President Kristine Shalla, First Vice President Kathryn Burgess, Second Vice President Prima Brennan, Secretary Ann Rayford, Treasurer Rebecka Clifton, Director Mayra Rodriguez and Director Isabel Nelson-Mervak.
July 20, 2017
The first of its kind in the state, Zonta Club of Detroit 1 is a locally based chapter of an international organization formed in 1919.

According to its mission statement, Zonta International is a global organization of executives and professionals working together to advance the status of women worldwide through service and advocacy.

Detroit 1 has opened its doors to non-professional people and some chapters allow men to join. Regardless of gender or status, the goal is the same: serving and supporting women and children.

“We want to extend to the rest of the community,” said Detroit 1 President Kristine Shalla, who has been a member 10 years. “We’ve always done things that encompassed the Detroit area.”

Throughout its history, Zonta Club chapters have funded projects to improve the health, education and economic status of women around the world. Locally, Detroit 1 has provided assistance for several organizations, including the Interim House Shelter of the YWCA, Alternatives for Girls, The Children’s Center in Detroit and Wayne County Safe, a domestic violence organization.

“We funded untested rape kits, helped pay for medical devices used during rape kits and helped fund the 10-year anniversary of Wayne County Safe,” Shalla said.

Through its 501(c)3, Diane Foundation, Detroit 1 is “able to raise money through tax-deductible organizations and provide charities with money and products,” said Shalla, whose mother is a 30-year club member.

Detroit 1 members meet at 6 p.m. the first Thursday of each month, September to June, usually at Lochmoor Club, but the venue is subject to change.

“We meet and discuss monthly topics and vote on various items,” Shalla said. “We try to do service projects throughout the year.”

Traditionally the club hosts two events — a holiday luncheon and a spring fling with a silent auction. There are two district conferences each year — spring and fall — which bring together the ideas of 38 clubs, Shalla said. International conventions — there are more than 1,200 clubs in 64 countries — take place every two years.

“We’re working on something for early fall, with sponsors throughout the community,” Shalla said of hosting another local event in support of empowering women and children. In the meantime, Detroit 1 has two initiatives it’s working on: assembling hygiene kits for the homeless and less fortunate, and distributing a calendar featuring law enforcement and first responders from Grosse Pointe, Detroit and Hamtramck.

“We’re excited about kicking off the calendar,” Shalla said. “We’re hoping by the end of summer to have the calendars.

“We’re looking for support and reaching out to our sources,” she continued. “Ideally we’d like to sell calendars to the community with those folks — who are going to be fully clothed — to raise money for hygiene kits for Wayne County Safe or another service project we want to support.”

Most of the money raised through Detroit 1 doesn’t stay with the group. In addition to service projects, it helps fund Zonta International programs, including Amelia Earhart Fellowships, Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarships and Young Women in Public Affairs Awards.

Earhart was a Zonta member.

Detroit 1 hosts a “zing,” a recruiting event for potential new members, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 27, at Red Crown, 15301 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Park. For more information, visit zonta15.org/detroit1.html.

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