Tag Archives: Zonta Club

Zonta Club Provides Educational Grant For Women Seeking Change

Press release supplied by Zonta Club:

Helping women restart their lives after enduring life-altering circumstances is the objective of the WINGS grant, sponsored by Zonta Club of Burbank Area.  Available to women over 21 years of age, applications are accepted twice per year April 30 and September 30.  Maximum grant amount is $2,000, which is available on a one-time basis to help women improve their status through education.  Funds may be applied for needs arising from schooling such as books, computer equipment, lab equipment, tuition, uniforms, vocation specific equipment etc.  Grants are also available to obtain professional licenses for those who have graduated, but face financial hardship.

WINGS funds will be made available for the winter semester.   Several thousand dollars have been awarded to WINGS recipients in the past seven years since the project’s inception.  All information and the application for the upcoming September 30 deadline are available at www.zontaburbank.com/wings.

Zonta Club is a non-profit service organization providing grants and programs, which empower women locally and globally through service and advocacy.   Programs are made available through fundraising efforts.  In lieu of this year’s annual November “Woman of the Year” event, one of the club’s major fundraisers, Zonta will instead be focusing on the “Zonta Says No” campaign.  “Zonta Says No” will take place from November 25-December 10, 2017 during the 16 Days of Activism to End Gender Based Violence.  The club will host a variety of events to raise awareness of the perpetual violence against women in Burbank, in California, in the United States and around the world. Details for these events will be released on Zonta’s website in early October.

Donations in support of Zonta’s focus areas and membership information can be found at www.ZontaBurbank.org

Zonta Club Recognizes Carol Liu as its 2016 Woman of the Year

Looking to be inspired? Just read the resume of Sen. Carol Liu.

She was elected twice to her present seat on the California State Senate. Before that she served the State Assembly and La Canada Flintridge City Council as well as working for 17 years in public schools.

 Past Women of the Year, from left, Shanna Warren, Janet Diel, Sen. Carol Liu, Elaine Paonessa, Jamie Keyser Thomas, Barbara Howell and Lucy Burghdorf.

Past Women of the Year, from left, Shanna Warren, Janet Diel, Sen. Carol Liu, Elaine Paonessa, Jamie Keyser Thomas, Barbara Howell and Lucy Burghdorf.

Her bills signed into law have included those that improve community college student success, provide access to adult education, protect foster and homeless youth, prevent domestic violence, reduce poverty and homelessness and introduce programs for the incarcerated.

In 2012, she instituted her Pathways to Wellbeing and Economic Prosperity program. She pulled together representatives from several agencies to discuss how to better collaborate services for those living in poverty. The program continues to help veterans, seniors, foster youth, the formerly incarcerated and victims of domestic violence.

Liu’s accomplishments are closely aligned with the mission of the 80-year-old Zonta Club of Burbank Area — to improve the lives of women and their families in the community, which made her the perfect fit as the group’s 2016 Woman of the Year. She was honored by elected officials, colleagues and friends at a luncheon on Oct. 29 at Lakeside Golf Club.

Zonta President Samantha Mielke welcomed all and introduced the VIPs attending, including Mayor Jess Talamantes and City Council members Emily Gabel-Luddy and Bob Frutos. Zonta board member Brittany Vaughan gave the invocation.

Those serving on the committee with Mielke and Vaughan were Nickie Bonner, Sharon Cohen, Grace Farenbaugh, Francesca Gallard, Marva Murphy, Gloria Salas, Merisol Speat and Candy Williams.

Bonner captured beautifully the senator’s life in a video with touches of humor. After Liu started her first job at Santa Monica High School, she grew accustomed to the fact that when the surf was up, she didn’t have many students come to class.

Following the video, several colleagues took the podium and told about working with the senator.

District Director Talin Mangioglu told how while serving in the Assembly, Liu spent the night in a women’s institution and spoke with the women about their grievances. One that surprised the senator was inability of female prisoners to be allowed to see their children.

She arranged for youngsters to take a bus to an institution and came along. At first the group was turned away until prison officials learned that a state legislator was on the bus checking out how the system worked. Consequently the children were let in to see their parents.

Mangioglu had once heard someone call her boss unflappable and she had a classic anecdote to prove it. One rainy afternoon, a meeting had been scheduled with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Liu’s office. Parking was often an issue and sure enough Liu had to park a block away and walked in soaking wet with her Australian shepherd Max. She calmly asked Mangioglu for some paper towels, dried off Max, took off her shoes and walked barefoot into the meeting room. Her only comment — how refreshing it was to see the rain. What a trooper!

 Zonta Club and city officials honoring Sen. Carol Liu are, from left, Nickie Bonner, Council Member Bob Frutos, Mayor Jess Talamantes, Grace Farenbaugh, Sen. Liu, Council Member Emily Gabel-Luddy, former mayor and past Woman of the Year Marsha Ramos and Zonta President Samantha Mielke. (Photos by Joyce Rudolph)

Zonta Club and city officials honoring Sen. Carol Liu are, from left, Nickie Bonner, Council Member Bob Frutos, Mayor Jess Talamantes, Grace Farenbaugh, Sen. Liu, Council Member Emily Gabel-Luddy, former mayor and past Woman of the Year Marsha Ramos and Zonta President Samantha Mielke. (Photos by Joyce Rudolph)

Burbank Mayor Jess Talamantes had his own story to tell about the modest senator before presenting her with the Key to the City.

The mayor had been invited to visit Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon whenever he was in Sacramento. So one day Talamantes stopped by to say hello and the staff told him de Leon was too busy. But who should walk in the door — Sen. Liu who had an appointment with him. She invited Talamantes to sit down and wait with her — and they saw him together.

At the end of the program, Jamie Keyser Thomas, Woman of the Year for 2014, presented Liu with her Woman of the Year pin.

A donation of $500 was made in Liu’s name to Family Promise of the Verdugos, and then Liu received a standing ovation.

Liu said she is preparing for her “swan song” to leave state office having termed out after 14 years in the assembly and senate. She thanked Zonta and all of those attending the luncheon who work together to make the surrounding communities thriving, healthy and just the best they can be.

“There is no other agenda for any of us in public service but to give back from which we have all benefited and that has been my philosophy of life in general,” she said. “I know that many of you  hopefully have been touched by some of the programs and activities that we have done across the district.”

Former Women of the Year attending the luncheon, in addition to Thomas, were Elaine Paonessa, Marsha Ramos, Janet Diel, Lucy Burghdorf, Barbara Howell and Shanna Warren.

Funds raised from the luncheon will go to projects of Zonta including its Wings program that provides grants to help women who are enrolled or recently graduated from educational or vocational training that will lead to employment and economic independence.

Zonta Plants Yellow Roses at the Burbank Board Of Realtors

The Zonta Club of Burbank is celebrating International Women’s Day and Zonta Rose Day, on March 8, 2016 at 11:00 a.m., by planting yellow rose bushes at the Headquarters of the Burbank Board of Realtors, 2006 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, CA. The yellow rose is the traditional symbol of Zonta International.

For Zontians, Yellow Rose Day is a day to reflect on the achievements of the past year and prepare for the challenges ahead to advance the status of women worldwide. The United Nations established International Women Day in 1977 to celebrate the rights of women and international peace. Both events are celebrated internationally on March 8 every year.

The Zonta Club of Burbank Area brings together volunteers with a passion for empowering women through service & advocacy. Since its chartering in 1936, the Burbank Zonta Club has brought together business people and community members willing to volunteer their time to raise money, advocate and provide direct service to women in need. The Zonta Club meets the third Wednesday of the month at Hill Street Cafe in Burbank. Anyone interested in attending a meeting or in learning more about membership may visit www.ZontaBurbank.org for more information.

Founded in 1919, Zonta International is a global organization dedicated to empowering women through service and advocacy. With more than 30,000 members belonging to more than 1,200 Zonta Clubs in 65 countries and geographic areas, Zontians all over the world volunteer their time, talents and support to local and international service projects, as well as scholarship programs aimed at fulfilling Zonta’s mission and objectives.

Zonta Club Names Zita Lefebvre Woman of the Year

By Joyce Rudolph

Zita Lefebvre was recognized as Zonta’s 2015 Woman of the Year for her many contributions to the city on Saturday at Lakeside Golf Club.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Now retired from Cartoon Network, Lefebvre started there as Director of Operations in 1999, but soon tagged “and Community Relations” on the end of that title when she started doing community outreach projects, originally on her own time. Over the years she created a forever bond with such nonprofits as the Family Service Agency of Burbank, Boys & Girls Club and Stevenson Elementary School.

She continues to volunteer twice a week at the Family Service Agency finding new sources of funding. The agency provides mental wellness counseling for individuals, families and children at the center as well as at all Burbank Unified School District schools.

Lefebvre has been instrumental in supporting the agency’s programs that help battered women and children who have endured abuse.

“The agency does such important work,” she said. “I see so many kids who aren’t having good childhoods and I think, how do you grow up to be a good citizen if you don’t have a healthy childhood? I think these kids have it hard and I feel so sorry for them.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Family Service Agency has an art therapy program and Lefebvre said when she sees the art the children are drawing about what’s going on in their lives, it gives her “chills.”

“The counselors do wonderful work and they help so many people,” she said.

Lefebvre has joined the board of the new Burbank School Garden Network, whose purpose is to create vegetable gardens in every school in town. She also still helps out at the garden at Stevenson Elementary School, which she has been doing for 14 years. She credits Sheridan Gardens nursery and Kreigh Hampel, the city’s recycling coordinator, for supporting her efforts over the years.

“I recycle my egg shells into the soil around my plants,” she said. “I try to teach the kids organic gardening, healthy gardening and healthy meals. That’s the mission, to teach the kids to grow their own healthy produce.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Lefebvre just completed a Master Gardening program.

“What you have to do when you graduate from the class is give back 50 hours to teach low-income people how to plant a garden,” she said.

From the beginning, Lefebvre said she felt so welcomed in Burbank.

“People would say Zita’s here, let’s see how we can work with her,” she said, adding that former city manager Mike Flad and others in the city were very supportive from the start. “I was happy to help create the community partnerships and Cartoon Network went along with it, which was really nice.”

Lefebvre is very proud of a gifting program study she wrote for Cartoon Network 12 year ago that logged the projects created for nonprofits like Family Service Agency and Boys & Girls Club. The study included cash donations to the schools, allowing nonprofits to use the animation studio for art shows and the rooftop patio for fundraisers and recruiting animators to volunteer their time helping students make animated film projects.

“The grand total over 12 years came to well over a million dollars invested into the Burbank community,” she said. “Donations, in kind and volunteer activities really do add up. We accomplished so much with what resources we had. The number overwhelmed me and I think more businesses should be doing this.”

Zonta President Brittany Vaughan welcomed more than 100 people attending the luncheon and explained that the luncheon benefits the Zonta Foundation. Funds raised go to such projects as Zonta’s Wings Program. Twice a year, the Zonta Club offers grants up to $2,000. Application deadlines are April 30 and Sept. 30.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

The Wings grant is offered to women 21 years and older, who have endured a life altering setback/experience and seek to improve their status through education. The grants offer one-time financial assistance to the recipients.

“There is a really nice tie-in there because a lot of the women that get the Wings grants are clients of organizations that Zita supports, like Family Service Agency and Boys & Girls Club,” Vaughan said.

The chair of the Woman of the Year luncheon was Zonta Club’s Vice President Samantha Mielke, who was assisted by all members in the club.

Family Service Agency Executive Director Laurie Bleick, former city manager Mike Flad and Chris Glennon, one of her former bosses at Hanna Barbara, told humorous stories about Lefebvre as well as re-enforcing her ongoing commitment to local nonprofits.

Glennon recently had attended a conference at which Oprah Winfrey spoke and he said it gave him some ideas for his talk on Lefebvre.

“Oprah is obviously an amazingly successful and dynamic person and I saw a lot of those similarities in Zita in her world,” he said, adding that one thing they have in common is being known by just their first names.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

The conference he attended referred to Oprah’s brand.

“I thought about the brand of Zita because Zita is such an amazing mix of drive, passion, commitment and humor, so I thought I’d have a little fun with some correlation with another very famous woman.”

All speakers touched on Lefebvre’s relentlessness for getting things accomplished, Glennon said.

Zonta Club Of Burbank Presented Best Lunafest Yet

LunaFest features award-winning short films “by, for and about women.” Last Saturday, the Zonta Club of Burbank returned LunaFest to the Laemmle Theater in NoHo, and engaged the audience with eight greats:

****Tryouts (14:00 minutes) features a Muslim American teenaged girl who wants to join her high school’s cheerleading squad. This gem of a film invites us to separate the essentials of our traditions from our accustomed expressions of them.

**Tits (4:45 minutes) is an earnest story of a young woman learning to appreciate her body without needing approval from an image-obsessed culture.

****Chica’s Day (10:00 minutes) is worthy of comparison with The Sixth Sense. It’s one of those rare films that can give the same event two very different meanings.

***Lady Parts (6:05 minutes) shows us a straight-shooting auto repair shop run by women. Somewhere Rosie the Riveter is shouting, “About time!”

****Miss Todd (12:53 minutes) was magnificent! Inspiring story, captivating heroine, marvelous singing, humor, wit and brilliant animation that put every penny on the screen. Memo to Disney: There’s a full-length animated feature in this tale of a pioneering (1910!) aeronautical engineer with the Wright stuff for showing the world how to fly.

***Flor de Toloache (3:30 minutes) is a red hot, all female mariachi band. Que bueno!

***A Good Match (13:00 minutes) highlights an often-neglected dilemma of relationships past and present. What happens when you break up with the boyfriend but you really got along with his mom? Breaking up is very hard to do indeed.

****Viva (7:39 minutes) is a documentary portrait of Cornwall’s grandmother of punk, now in her ninth decade. Betty White, meet your rebel twin.

The best LunaFest yet.

The Zonta Club of Burbank raised $2,000 in net proceeds from tickets and sponsorships. Every dollar of these funds will benefit the Breast Cancer Fund (breastcancerfund.org) and the Zonta Club of Burbank Area Foundation (zontaburbank.org), which provides grants to individual women and funds projects that empower women.

“We were proud to be hosting our 3rd annual LunaFest and each year, this event has been gaining momentum,” said BRITTANY VAUGHAN, President of the Zonta Club in Burbank. “LunaFest is a wonderful example of how Zonta is working to empower women through service and advocacy.”

“I really appreciate the strong support from Charter Business FiberSolutions, Burbank Optometric Center and Alisa Cunningham Properties,” said LunaFest chair NICKIE BONNER.

LUNA, “the makers of the Whole Nutrition Bar for Women.” established LunaFest in 2000. LUNA wanted to “promote women filmmakers, raise awareness for women’s issues, and support women’s nonprofit organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada.” Thanks to organizations like Zonta, LunaFest will be traveling to over 150 cities and screen in front of an estimated 25,000 people.

For more information about LunaFest films and the stories behind them, please visit lunafest.org.

Zonta Club Of Burbank Will Present Lunafest

On Saturday, March 14, at 11 a.m., the Zonta Club of Burbank will present LunaFest, featuring nine acclaimed short films “by for and about women.” As in past years, this two-hour event will take place at the Laemmle Theater, NoHo7.

The women who took the plunge and brought these films into being became real-life examples of the empowerment they celebrate. Perhaps that’s why past LunaFest audiences have been inspired as well as entertained by their work.

Net proceeds of LunaFest will benefit the Breast Cancer Fund (breastcancerfund.org) and the Zonta Club of Burbank Area Foundation (zontaburbank.org), which provides grants to individual women and funds projects that empower women.

“We are proud to be hosting our 3rd annual LunaFest and each year, this event gains momentum,” said BRITTANY VAUGHAN, President of the Zonta Club in Burbank. “LunaFest is a wonderful example of how Zonta is working to empower women through service and advocacy.”

“I really appreciate the strong support from Charter Business Fiber Solutions and Alisa Cunningham properties,” said LunaFest chair NICKIE BONNER. “And sponsorships are still available.”

Thanks to organizations like Zonta, LunaFest will be traveling to over 150 cities and screen in front of an estimated 25,000 people. For more information about LunaFest films and the stories behind them, please visit lunafest.org.

LunaFest will be at the Laemmle Theatre, NoHo7, 5240 Lankershim Blvd., on Saturday, March 14 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets are $20 general. For more ticket information, please call 213-700-1029 or visit lunafest.org/northhollywood0314.

Burbank Zonta Hosted Luncheon Honoring Amelia Earhart Fellows

Amelia Earhart Fellow alumnae



For a lot of folks back east, the sight of white has been calling forth a chorus of early morning groans. But for 2014 Amelia Earhart Fellow CECILY KEPPEL, the sight of swirling snowflakes in her native Wisconsin had inspired wonder. In the years that followed, young Cicely found she was good at math, very good in fact. She could predict when a water balloon would hit the ground, or maybe an annoying friend, and she “found calculus very exciting” and decided to use math “to solve real-world problems.”

Last Saturday, at the Amelia Earhart Luncheon and Amelia Earhart Fellows Alumnae Reunion, Cecily was sharing the results of her research into swirls of a grander sort: the behavior of ocean currents and weather systems, global dynamos that can mix together things both good and bad for our environment. And it was clear that there was big passion as well as big data behind Cecily’s animated graphs.

Welcome to lunch with the brainy bunch.

In the living memory of many of us, there was a time in America when women with a bent for math and science didn’t receive much encouragement. (In modern parlance, that would be a fondness for STEM: science, technology, engineering and math.)

Fortunately, times have changed.

They changed because earlier generations of women decided to follow their gifts wherever they led, even if it led them to traditionally male preserves. It wasn’t easy for them. Age-old prejudices about what women could and could not do are a hard, hard kind of ice to be breaking.

Some of these pioneering professionals banded together and formed Zonta International, “a global organization of executives and professionals working together to advance the status of women.” One early Zontian was aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart. She made a solo crossing of the Atlantic that impressed men and women alike. Burbank Zontian and luncheon host GRACE FARENBAUGH remembers her mother telling her, “You have no idea how popular Amelia Earhart was. She was more popular than the Beatles!” Grace’s mother had gone to college “to get her MRS degree” but, inspired by women like Amelia Earhart, Grace and other brave Baby Boom sisters went to college determined to become successful professionals in their own right.

Two-time Amelia Earhart Fellow URSZULA NIEDZIELSKA hails from the Polish town of Torun, the birthplace of Copernicus, who created shockwaves with his notion that the sun, and not the Earth, was the center of the solar system. (“Torun is also well known for its gingerbread cookies,” added Ursula.) She examines shockwaves of a different sort, the kind that jet turbines and Ariane rockets are able to create. Ursula bounces the waves off walls, and bounces off ideas with her colleagues, in the quest for breakthrough designs. She also got her pilot’s license, wanting more than just her mind to soar.

Cecily and Ursula were both honored as the 2014 Amelia Earhart Fellows, two of 35 women chosen throughout the world from an impressive application pool of 165 women. “The fellowship started out as a $500 loan back in the 30’s,” explains SHARON LANGENBECK, 2014-2016 Director, Zonta International & Zonta International Foundation. “Now it’s a $10,000 grant.” Only women in the aerospace field at the PhD level are eligible to apply for an Amelia Earhart Fellowship.

For purposes of the award, the aerospace field can encompass related research in other areas, including cosmology and chemistry. Featured speaker MORGAN NUNN MARTINEZ, 2011 and 2013 Amelia Earhart Fellow, regaled her audience with her meteor-chasing adventures in Antarctica, “Cosmochemistry—on Ice.” Antarctica turns out to be a great place to gather meteors. For one thing, the meteors belong to science rather than, as in many countries, some government bureau. For another, the partially melting ice in the six-month “summer” obligingly shepherds the meteors into a manageable area, penning them against mountains. Then the keening winds scrape the snow away, exposing many of the meteors to view.

So Antartica’s a great place to be discovering pieces of Mars and asteroids—except that you’re in a place that sometimes gets colder and windier than Mars. “The fellowship helped me get my gear,” points out Morgan, as we see a picture of the fur clad scientist with the right stuff surrounded by the white stuff.

It turns out that in probing the inside of a stone-sized meteor, you can peer inside a whole world. For example, it had been the iron cores of certain meteors that led to the discovery that the Earth itself had an iron core. And Morgan’s meteors can supplement the information about Mars gathered by Landers on the ground, and can also yield clues about the distribution of water throughout the solar system.

Since its inception in 1938, Zonta International has awarded 1,438 Amelia Earhart Fellowships, totaling more than US $8.6 million, to women from 70 countries. (Because some women have garnered multiple fellowships, there are a total of 1,014 distinct Amelia Earhart fellows.) Nearly 20 alumnae were on hand to welcome two of the newest members into their exclusive fold.

“Among fellowship programs, the Amelia Earhart Fellowship is the best kept secret in the world,” remarked ALESSANDRA BABUSCIA, Amelia Earhart Fellow and District 9 Amelia Earhart Chairperson.

Let’s hope that changes.

Zonta Club Of Burbank Shares The Joy Of The Season

At their holiday party last Wednesday, the Zonta Club of Burbank had a very special guest: a young woman who has broken free of domestic violence for the sake of herself and her children.

She and her family have been staying at a safe place in an undisclosed location. Last month, she learned that Zonta chose her to receive its 2014 WINGS grant. And at Zonta’s holiday gathering, she shared with her new Zonta friends a message of gratitude and renewed hope.

WingsRecipient“Helping women reclaim their lives from physical and verbal abuse is one of the most rewarding things we do,” said Zonta President Brittany Vaughan. Burbank Family Service Director of Family Violence Services Christine Ramos added, “I know how vulnerable these women are, and I’m deeply grateful to organizations like Zonta who are willing to give them a helping hand.”

“Zonta awards WINGS grants to adult women who have endured major adversities and life-changing setbacks,” explains Marje Simay, this year’s WINGS Grant program Chair. Most grant recipients re-launch by going on to earn a degree or complete vocational training. All of them have, in one way or another, changed their lives for the better.

SetajoinsZontaAs the party progressed, noted singer Anibal Silveyra provided holiday entertainment, and Zontans gleefully stole each other’s gift bags during their “Bad Santa” exchange of holiday presents. But there were other bags, ones containing hundreds of personal hygiene items that Zontans had purchased for the Burbank Temporary Aid Center. “We usually think of donating food when we think of BTAC,“ remarked Brittany. “But for homeless men and women there’s also a great need to maintain personal hygiene.”

Besides the easy camaraderie among its members, Zonta’s highly relevant community service is also a reason why it continues to thrive in an era when many service clubs have gone extinct. And it’s a reason why Zonta continues to welcome new members like Seta Javor as part of their holiday celebrations.


Zonta Club Of Burbank Honors Disney’s Jamie Keyser Thomas As 2014 Woman Of The Year

Over 120 community leaders and notables joined the Zonta Club of Burbank in honoring JAMIE KEYSER THOMAS as Burbank’s 2014 Woman of the Year on Saturday, November 1, at the Castaway’s Starlight Room. Club President Brittany Vaughan and event chair Samantha Mielke spearheaded Zonta’s signature fundraising event, which has become a beloved community tradition.

ZontaGroupWOY2014(1)This year’s recognition is “a great tribute to a great person,” said Gary Olson, Executive Director, Burbank Chamber of Commerce. “Jamie has meant so much for our community over the years. How wonderful we have a great turnout to honor her.”

Jamie joins a distinguished short list of women who have made very significant and positive impacts on Burbank. Jamie’s 23-year career with Disney spans several company divisions: Disney Leaning Partnership, Corporate Brand Management, Disney Development Company and, currently, Citizenship. As Disney’s Program Manager of Los Angeles Community Engagement, Jamie runs Disney’s enormously successful VoluntEARS program, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary.

“Jamie brings focus, commitment and structure to the VoluntEARS’ work,” praised her boss Joan McCarthy, Disney’s Senior Manager for Community Engagement. “She brings a lot of fun and enthusiasm. She also brings food!” (Cooking is one of Jamie’s loves, along with her zest for the outdoors.)

With the Taproot Foundation, she piloted the first formalized skills-based VoluntEARS program to make the popular group even better at serving the community. Taking the initiative is just something Jamie naturally does, according to Lisa Rawlins, Warner Bros. Senior Vice President for Public Affairs. “She’s always the first to volunteer for whatever needs to be done. And it’s always done on time, with a smile and great leadership.”

Jamie finds the time to serve on several local charitable boards (including Leadership Burbank and Burbank Business Partners) as well as having served on special committees for the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, Burbank Temporary Aid Center, Burbank Centennial Community Committee, Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics of Southern California, MEND and Volunteer LA.

Jamie&Mayor(1)Mayor Gordon commended Jamie “for her dedication in helping others. I congratulate you on your well-deserved success.” He was “very excited to have had the opportunity to honor Jamie.”

“This is completely overwhelming,” said Jamie as she joined Zonta Club President Brittany Vaughan at the lectern. Gesturing to her family, Jamie said, “The fact that you guys are here today to share this with me means so much.”

Her family knew she was a community powerhouse, but recently their focus had been on other things. It was only recently that Jamie had won a life-or-death battle. When she said to her audience, “I am cancer free,” she drew a second of three standing ovations. She credits the Disney Cancer Center and the support of family and friends for her victory.

“I’d like to tell you what an angel Jamie is,” said hubby Mike Thomas, “but I saw her jaywalk once.” Maybe. Their two dogs aren’t talking. But in a voice choked with emotion Mike added, “I’m a lucky man to call her my wife.”

Jamie recalled her days with the “notorious” Burbank Leadership class of 2005, which produced a bumper crop of community leaders, many of which were on hand to celebrate Jamie’s recognition. The Burbank leadership experience “opened her eyes to the various ways we can support the Burbank community.” (Zonta made a donation of $500 to Leadership Burbank in Jamie’s honor.) Jamie loves Zonta too. “They empower women. They also do a fantastic job of bringing together business and community.”

For her part, Club President Brittany is “humbled and honored to have been able to present Jamie as Zonta Club of Burbank’s Woman of the Year. Jamie brings joy and enthusiasm to all of her endeavors,” Brittany continued, “and Burbank is lucky to count her as one of their own. I am so pleased that Zonta was able to highlight the accomplishments of such a remarkable woman.”

Zonta Club Honors Thomas as 2014 Woman of the Year

For her many contributions to the community, Jamie Keyser Thomas was honored as Zonta Club of Burbank’s 2014 Woman of the Year on Saturday.

More than 100 family and friends cheered loudly for her during a luncheon in her honor held in the Starlight Room of the Castaway Restaurant.

Burbank Woman of the Year Jamie Keyser Thomas, center, with event chairwoman Samantha Mielke, left, and Zonta President Brittany Vaughan. (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)

Burbank Woman of the Year Jamie Keyser Thomas, center, with event chairwoman Samantha Mielke, left, and Zonta President Brittany Vaughan. (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)

Thomas is the program manager of Los Angeles Community Engagement, which is part of The Walt Disney Company’s Citizenship Division. She helps to manage the community outreach programs in Los Angeles with special focus on Burbank. She runs the Disney VoluntEARS program and oversees the Disney VoluntEARS Leadership Council.

She also serves on several local charitable boards including Leadership Burbank and Burbank Business Partners. In addition, she has served on special committees for the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, Burbank Temporary Aid Center and the Burbank Centennial Community Committee.

Saturday’s program honoring Thomas had sentimental moments as well as comical.

While Mayor David Gordon was presenting a proclamation and a certificate of recognition to Thomas, his cell phone started ringing.

“No, it’s not for you,” he quipped to Thomas.

Three of Thomas’ attributes — Leadership, Creativity and Compassion — were highlighted by Joan McCarthy, senior manager for Disney Community Engagement Los Angeles, Walt Disney Company.

“Not only is she a leader for her company but she is a recognized expert and leader in the field of corporate volunteering,” McCarthy said. “She is regularly called upon to share her best practices with other companies and peers in the corporate world.”

Thomas has a creative approach and always looks for innovative ways for Disney to use the many tools in their tool chest to create shared values so all can prosper, McCarthy said.

And finally her compassion.

“I don’t think I have ever heard Jamie introduce someone as anything other than a real good friend,” McCarthy said. “Everyone who has ever met her immediately believes that she indeed is a real good friend. Her smile is big and genuine. Her arms are wide open to give a hug and draw you into her immense heart.”

Members from Thomas’ Leadership Burbank group broke into huge cheers when Lisa Rawlins, senior vice president, public affairs, for Warner Bros., mentioned Thomas’ participation with the celebrated 2005 class.

“Let me just finish the sentence,” Rawlins quipped, which drew laughs.

Thomas’ husband Mike said she is the strongest woman he has ever met.

“I’m a lucky man to call you my wife,” he said. “I love you.”

Thomas’ work in the community goes far beyond her efforts in Disney’s Community Engagement department, said Brittany Vaughan, Zonta president.

“As an active Leadership Burbank board member and a Burbank Business Partner member, Jamie works tirelessly to better the Burbank community through service,” she said. “Her radiance and joy are a wonderful presence to any group she is involved in. Zonta is proud to be honoring Jamie as Woman of the Year.”

Thomas is humbled to receive the honor, she said.

“It has been my privilege to attend the Women of the Year luncheon over the years and celebrate the amazing women who have come before me – women I am proud to call my mentors and friends. Thank you Zonta for this great honor.”

Zonta will make a $500 donation in Thomas’ honor to Leadership Burbank.

Thomas gave a shout out in gratitude to the staff at the Disney Cancer Center. She was treated for a rare form of neck cancer that was diagnosed in May.

“But it’s time to celebrate because I am cancer free,” she said.

Her illness left her without a smile, but she will be having surgery to replace it, she added.

Zonta members work to advance the status of women through service and advocacy. For more information, visit www.zontaburbank.org.

Burbank Woman of the Year past recipients attending Saturday's luncheon are, from left, Elaine Paonessa, Mary Alvord, T.J. Baptie, Barbara Howell and Shanna Warren. (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)

Burbank Woman of the Year past recipients attending Saturday’s luncheon are, from left, Elaine Paonessa, Mary Alvord, T.J. Baptie, Barbara Howell and Shanna Warren. (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)