The Zonta Club of Joliet Area (Club #06-05-0735) was chartered on October 25, 1973 with 25 members, with its official charter presented by International President, Harriet Yeckel, in November of 1974. The Club is proud to have two of its original founding members, Dr. Patricia Miller and Carmela Castagna, still actively engaged. Within the first twenty years, membership grew from 25 to 59 members. Several members of the Zonta Club of Joliet Area have held Zonta International and Zonta District Offices, with Wanda Onstad serving as the International Membership Chair (1989 -1990), on the International Membership Committee (1990 to 1992) and as District Secretary (1986-1987), and Dianna Gliwa, a current and active member of our club, serving as Zonta District Governor (1986-1988) and Lt. Gov. (1984-1986), as well as Area 5 Director (1982-1983.) Mary Baudino served as District Secretary (2010-2012) and Bonnie McElroy served as District 6, Area 5 Director; additionally, Pat Perrier began serving as District webmaster in 2010.
In the fall of 1976, the Club held its first fundraiser, a Champagne Brunch, raising $1615 to benefit “Big Sisters.” Throughout the years, our local club have hosted brunch fundraisers of many configurations, raising approximately $8,000 annually, with funds distributed to Sheltering Arms, a shelter for women with chemical dependency issues, and Groundworks, a domestic abuse center. The Zonta Club of the Joliet Area continued its tradition of hosting a large annual Spring Brunch/Luncheon until 2018, when it pivoted to a Friday evening Wine and Beer Tasting. In 2016, a second annual Fall fundraiser, The Festival of Culture, was added to increase the club donation power. This event is made possible by the generous donations and participation of many local ethnic food vendors. This event is a popular one, and the club is proud to increase the awareness of our area’s diversity and our small business offerings, in addition to increasing the club’s capacity to fund additional projects and scholarships. As a result of these successful fundraisers, our club has able to annually donate nearly $10,000 annually to local agencies serving women and children.
In 1990, the Joliet Club initiated a self-funding Young Women in Public Affairs scholarship at the Joliet Junior College Foundation. The first scholarship for $500 was presented to a woman in a business or professional field and continues on to this day, with a total of $4500 in scholarship awards issued in 2018 and 2019, and a second Culinary Scholarship issued for $500 in both 2018 and 2019. The Zonta Club of Joliet has started many new initiatives since the 1990s. Meetings are held monthly August to May, with annual participation in advocacy events such as Will County’s Take Back the Night March & Rally and Guardian Angel Community Services’ Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. In addition, we host service projects, such as reading to youth in our local Daybreak Shelter for unhoused women and children, volunteering at our local community Hospice Center, donating purses and hygiene supplies to our community’s unsheltered women through our local public libraries, singing in our local nursing homes and assisted living communities, donating canned goods to local pantries, hosting craft and game nights at our local shelter for abused women and children, and working shifts at our local Northern Illinois Food Bank to pack food boxes for hungry families. We also recently hosted two free Women’s & Girl’s Health Expos with our local chapter of the National Hook-Up of Black Women.
A Z Club was formed at Joliet Central High School on
October 8, 2015 (Charter # 758) with 30 inductees.
The event drew over 150 attendees, and set the stage
for a successful partnership with the school district that
continues to grow. The Z Club, known as the Fearless
Females, has become an integral part of Zonta’s mission,
and students are incorporated into almost every aspect of
the club’s service. Through the partnership with Central’s
Fearless Females, Joliet Zontians provide career guidance,
mentorship, and the ideal of service to the young women.
Central’s Z Club has become a model for other Zonta Clubs
in the area. A few of the opportunities afforded to Central’s
Fearless Females through the Zonta Club of Joliet include:
a beginning and end of the year celebration with delicious
food and mentorship from the club’s membership; participation in special events as guests at fundraising events; participation in advocacy initiatives, such as the Will County Take Back the Night and the Period Pack Project, which provides feminine supplies that teachers can have on-hand to give to students. The club hosts career exploration events such as the Zonta Speed Dating event, and each year, members deliver baskets overflowing with college supplies to Fearless Females seniors. From door stops to bath and school supplies, the girls are fully prepared, thanks to the generosity of Zonta.
Since 2011, the Zonta Club of Joliet Area has assisted the Jebreel Learning Center for women and girls in the western region of Herat in Afghanistan. This successful learning center is part of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), which is a well-known and respected non-government organization in Afghanistan. At Jebreel, women and girls are enrolled in basic academic classes and also participate in income-generation activities. Literacy, tailoring, computers, and math are some of the many subjects taught. The young girls report back to us regularly on the activities and projects. Monies are raised and collected from members with limited funds matched from the Club’s budget. This year our club contributed $1,500 to the learning center, which will be used primarily for teachers’ salaries. Past international projects also include the funding of $450 for water pumps in Sri Lanka, in addition to annual funds allocated from our fundraising for Zonta International scholarships and ZI projects worldwide.
The City Councils of our local cities Joliet and Plainfield annually honor our Club with a Proclamation in conjunction with International Women's Day. Several Club members attend this presentation. During the month of October (Domestic Violence Month) we partner with Guardian Angel Community Service in support of the well attended annual "Take Back The Night " rally, hosting a speaker, vendors and other community organizations. From November 25 to December 10, we annually join other Zontians in an active 16 Days of Activism campaign. Displays are placed all over our community to promote awareness. Over the years, the Zonta Club of Joliet has made significant contributions to this community. Thanks to an outstanding membership and generous community support, the Club will continue to do so for many years to come.