Tag Archives: Zonta Club

Zonta Club Names Thomas as Woman of the Year

Jamie Keyser Thomas

Jamie Keyser Thomas

The Zonta Club of Burbank Area is proud to announce the selection of Jamie Keyser Thomas as “Burbank’s Woman of the Year” for 2014.  Ms. Thomas currently is a Program Manager of Los Angeles Community Engagement, which is part of The Walt Disney Company’s Citizenship Division.  In her role with Disney, Ms. Thomas helps to create, implement, and manage community outreach programs focusing in the areas of compassion, creativity, and conservation in the greater Los Angeles area, with specific emphasis in the City of Burbank.  The “Woman of the Year” is an annual event sponsored by Zonta to honor exemplary women who make outstanding contributions to our community. Thomas has positively impacted the lives of countless people through her work and volunteerism in Burbank.

The Zonta Club of Burbank Area will honor Jamie Keyser Thomas at its annual Woman of the Year Luncheon, Saturday, November 1, 2014, at the Castaway Restaurant in Burbank at 11:30 a.m.

A graduate of Leadership Burbank in 2005 and the Southern California Leadership Network in 2010, Thomas runs the Disney VoluntEARS program which celebrated its 30th Anniversary last year.  She also manages key non-profit relationships and programs, and piloted the company’s first formalized Skills Based VolunEARS program with Taproot Foundation.  She currently serves on several local charitable boards including Leadership Burbank and Burbank Business Partners.  Ms. Thomas has also served on special committees for the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, Burbank Temporary Aid Center, the Burbank Centennial Community Committee, Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics of Southern California, MEND, and Volunteer LA.

“The Zonta Club of Burbank is thrilled to honor Jamie Thomas as Woman of the Year,” said Brittany Vaughan, President of the Zonta Club. “She has touched and improved so many lives and is a strong role model for aspiring women leaders.”

The Zonta Club invites the community to join in its celebration of Jamie Keyser Thomas’ achievements. Reservations and sponsorship opportunities are available by calling Samantha Mielke at 818-366-4568 or emailing woy@zontaburbank.org. Reservation and sponsorship information are also available at www.zontaburbank.org. Tickets are $65 each in advance. No tickets will be sold at the door.

Display Brings Awareness to Domestic Violence

Two local organizations have been calling attention to the plight of domestic violence victims and sexual crimes against people around the world through separate projects.

The Zonta Club of Burbank Area has collaborated with the Burbank Domestic Violence Task Force to create the “Baring Their Soles” project, which is continuing through Thursday evening, said chairwoman Marva Murphy, a Zonta member.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

An art installation featuring four telephone booths has been placed in the Burbank Town Center, on the third floor outside the Burlington store. Three of the booths are empty and one is filled with shoes that represent the 337 victims (79 men) of reported domestic violence cases in Burbank last year, Murphy said. The four phone booths represent the one in four women who will become victims of domestic violence in her lifetime.

Telephone booths were used to attract attention because they are unique, Murphy said. And some younger people have not seen a telephone booth and don’t know what they are.

“The telephone booths are also a reminder that help is just a phone call away,” Murphy added.

The project is to create an awareness of the problem as well as the services available to victims in Burbank. There are resource cards available at the exhibit that were created by the task force for people to take home. The cards have been printed in five languages — English, Spanish, Korean, Armenian and Tagalog. The cards are available at the city manager’s office and some of the parks.

Once while Murphy was at the exhibition, she was approached by two women — one was local while the other was from out of town.

“They thought it was wonderful that Burbank had so many resources available and were making the effort to bring awareness to the community,” Murphy said. “The visitor said she was going to send the information to her daughter in Washington, D.C., to show her what was done. Her daughter is involved with services for victims of domestic violence.”

Doug Murphy, the chairman’s son, was creative director for the project, and he created artwork for the installation that is inspired by Roy Lichtenstein, an American Pop artist of the 1960s.

Family Service Agency of Burbank has also conducted a project, but has broaden the scope to people around the world who have been victims of sexual assault.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

For the past 15 years, Peace Over Violence has run the Denim Day in L.A. and USA campaign on a Wednesday in April in honor of Sexual Violence Awareness Month. For more information on what prompted the campaign, visit denimdayusa.org.

In support of that, clients of the Burbank Family Service Agency decorated and painted 30 pairs of jeans and hung them outside of the agency in support of Denim Day for the last five years, said Christine Ramos, director of family violence services and the residential program.

“They take jeans and decorate them with phrases or images that are empowering to women who have suffered from sexual abuse. For ones who have experienced it, they express some of their feelings about it and what they would say to other people about it,” Ramos said. “Others who haven’t been victims, but know women who have been, they offer their support.”

People have come into the agency to ask what the project is for, so it is building awareness, Ramos said.

One of the more poignant pieces in the collection had just one simple phrase —
“No is a one-word sentence.” Another had a face with a hand over it, like keeping the person quiet. And others had rainbows and butterflies offering a more uplifting and encouraging message to victims.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Lunafest Returned With Shorts Long On Quality

Tlunafesthe Zonta Club of Burbank returned LUNAFEST to the Laemmle Theater in NoHo USA. Like last year, LUNAFEST features a program of award-winning short films “by for and about women.” The appreciative audience took a break from their usual, feature-length diet and instead sampled some tasty cinematic tapas:

Granny’s Got Game (10:45 minutes) profiles seven 70-something women who still play winning basketball, aches and pains and bruises be damned.

Flying Anne (21:00 minutes) follows a young girl’s coming-to-terms with Tourette’s Syndrome with the help of supportive adults.

The animated short Sidewalk (4:15 minutes) is one woman’s walk through life with her ever-changing body.

In First Match (15:00 minutes), a young woman prepares for her first coed high school match and contends with her conflicted father.

Sound Shadows (8:00 minutes) helps us appreciate how amazing it is that the ears can become the “eyes” of the blind.

Maria of Many (3:46 minutes): immigrant, domestic worker, activist. Like so many newcomers before her, she’s building a better world for her daughter…and in the process, her daughter’s generation.

Set in a present-day Athens beset with economic hardship, Running Dry (10:00 minutes) shows us a woman with a trickle of euros but a fountain of empathy.

Date With Fate (3:56 minutes) rhymes with mate. Enough said.

Tiny Miny Magic (7:45 minutes) convinces us that snail mail can still be a fast lane to unexpected romance.

Eight of these films had screened at various major film festivals, with Maria of Many premiering at LUNAFEST. Collectively, they deliver more entertainment value than most feature films.

The funds raised through the NoHo LUNAFEST showing will go to support the Breast Cancer Fund and the service projects of the Zonta Club of Burbank. Event chair NICKIE BONNER thanked Charter Business Fiber Solutions, Alisa Cunningham properties and the Burbank Optometric Center for their strong support.

“Zonta International has been working to advance the status of women for nearly a century and in Burbank since 1936,” said GRACE FARENBAUGH, President of the Zonta Club of Burbank. “We help women in the developing world, and we also help women here at home through grants and other programs.”

This year LUNAFEST will travel 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 Honors Rebecca Mieliwocki as Burbank Woman of the Year

Rebecca Mieliwocki was touted as a creative teacher for students and an inspiration to fellow teachers when the Zonta Club of Burbank honored her as its Woman of the Year 2013 during a luncheon on Saturday at the Castaway Restaurant.

Grace Farenbaugh, left, president of Zonta Club of Burbank, with honoree Rebecca Mieliwocki, the Woman of the Year for 2013. (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)

Grace Farenbaugh, left, president of Zonta Club of Burbank, with honoree Rebecca Mieliwocki, the Woman of the Year for 2013. (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)

Mieliwocki is a seventh-grade English teacher at Luther Middle School and she received the National Teacher of the Year in 2012. That honor set her on a yearlong exploration, first being honored by President Obama in Washington, D.C., and then visiting 30 U.S. states and nine countries, representing America’s public school teachers.

The honoree credited the people in her life for getting her to where she is today. She has tried to take the positive attributes from family members, teachers, neighbors and friends and woven those into her own personality, she said. But she never thought she was an inspiration to others.

“It is this award that helped me realize that,” she said. “That all of us are so incredibly infectious and influential whether it is your personality, sense of humor, your brain, the love and laughter that comes out of you is infectious. Take all the gifts you are given but make sure to give some back. So I will take this award today and turn around and see who else I can inspire, encourage, lift up or show the way, just like I hope all of us do.”

Luther teacher Traci Fellman recalled how Mieliwocki offers ways to improve the campus and inspires others to try new things. She led the way to spruce up the teacher’s lounge and helped organize the Luther Losers weight loss program.

“Rebecca is always there to make things better and push people outside of their comfort zones,” Fellman said.

Colleagues of Zonta honoree Rebecca Mieliwocki attending the luncheon are, from left, April Weaver, Luci Bowers and Traci Fellman. (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)

Colleagues of Zonta honoree Rebecca Mieliwocki attending the luncheon are, from left, April Weaver, Luci Bowers and Traci Fellman. (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)

Stefanie Enokian, another Luther teacher, said one of Mieliwocki’s greatest assets in the classroom is the way she holds her students’ attention with her humor, accents, jokes and thinking like a 12-year-old at heart.

Enokian remembered a first day of school when a student was comparing her class schedule with another student in the hallway, and said she had a class with Mieliwocki, who was walking behind her. Mieliwocki told her “Oh no, she’s the worst!” The student was surprised when she sat down in Mieliwocki’s class and saw the same blond woman at the front of the room.

Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy presented Mieliwocki with a certificate of appreciation from the city in honor of her leadership, passion and commitment to education.

“Thank you for making a difference in so many lives and your caring contributions to our city,” the mayor said.

Zonta presented Mieliwocki with a bouquet of flowers and a Woman of the Year pin. In addition, President Grace Farenbaugh said a donation of $500 was made in the recipient’s name to the She’s the First Foundation, which sponsors education for girls in developing nations, allowing them to be the first in their family to graduate from secondary schools.

“Teachers work so hard both in and out of the classroom and we know that Ms. Mieliwocki embodies that passion and dedication,” Farenbaugh said.

The Woman of the Year Award seeks to recognize women who are leaders and achievers in volunteer efforts and community service in Burbank. Recipients are those at the forefront of many initiatives and organizations that improve day-to-day quality of life for thousands in this community, by advancing the status of women.

Past Women of the Year with this year's honoree Rebecca Mieliwocki, second from left, are Marsha Ramos, left, 1997, Lucy Burghdorf, 2008, and Elaine Paonessa, 1978. (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)

Past Women of the Year with this year’s honoree Rebecca Mieliwocki, second from left, are Marsha Ramos, left, 1997, Lucy Burghdorf, 2008, and Elaine Paonessa, 1978. (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)

Past recipients attending Saturday’s event were Elaine Paonessa, Marsha Ramos and Lucy Burghdorf.

Zonta Club of Burbank is one of more than 1,200 clubs operating in 64 countries and geographic areas worldwide. The Burbank club conducts many service projects in the community, but members are most proud of the Zonta Wings program, Farenbaugh said. It provides grants to women for academic or vocational training.

“This program provides financial assistance to adult women who have gone back to school or are pursuing vocational training so they can overcome a major setback in their lives,” Farenbaugh said. “As women, we know how difficult it is to back to school when you have a family. We want to help women soar to the next level.”

Teacher of the Year Becomes Burbank’s Woman of the Year

The Zonta Club of Burbank Area is proud to announce the selection of Rebecca Mieliwocki, as “Burbank’s Woman of the Year” for 2013. The Luther Burbank Middle School teacher gained national attention last year, when she was named National Teacher of the Year. Not able to be honored in 2012 because of her constant travel around the country, the Zonta Club of Burbank felt it appropriate to bestow this honor upon Mieliwocki in 2013. The “Woman of the Year” is an annual event sponsored by Zonta to honor exemplary women who make outstanding contributions to our community. Mieliwocki has positively impacted the lives of countless young people in her years teaching in Burbank.

The Zonta Club of Burbank Area will honor Rebecca Mieliwocki at its annual Woman of the Year Luncheon, Saturday, November 2, 2013, at the Castaway Restaurant in Burbank at 11:30 a.m.

A graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in Speech Communication and a teaching credential from California State University, Northridge, Mieliwocki has taught English for 16 years in the Burbank Unified School District, first at the high school level and most recently at Luther Burbank Middle School.

“She’s got high expectations for her 7th graders and for herself, but she also knows that school can be fun,” said President Barak Obama as he presented her with the National Teacher of the Year award at the White House.

“The Zonta Club of Burbank is thrilled to honor Rebecca Mieliwocki as Woman of the Year,” said Grace Farenbaugh, President of the Zonta Club. “She has touched and improved so many lives and is a strong role model for aspiring women leaders.”

The Zonta Club invites the community to join in its celebration of Rebecca Mieliwocki’s achievements. Reservations and sponsorship opportunities are available by calling Grace Farenbaugh at 818-398-7170 or emailing woy@zontaburbank.org. Reservation and sponsorship information are also available at www.zontaburbank.org. Tickets are $50 each in advance. No tickets will be sold at the door.

Nine Successful Lunafest Films Reviewed

The navaratna mala, or nine-gems necklace, is a sacred and royal object throughout Asia and often associated with the sun, moon and other celestial bodies. A few weeks ago, at the Laemmle Theater in NoHo USA, Lunafest adorned an delighted audience with a matinee-length navaratna mala of nine cinematic gems “by for and about women.”

Each film lent its own faceted reflection of women’s contemporary lives:

Georgena Terry (5:48 minutes) profiles the woman who designed bike frames with a revolutionary idea: bicycles meant for women should be designed for women’s bodies.

Chalk (18:00 minutes) follows a young female gymnast as she competes in an elite training camp while making age-old discoveries about bodies, boys and friendship.

Self-Portrait With Cows Going Home And Other Works (10:30 minutes) focuses on renowned contemporary photographer Sylvia Plachy…who is camera-shy.

The Bathhouse (5:50 minutes) is an animated short about women escaping the streets of the modern city and transformed by a bathhouse paradise.

When I Grow Up (9:30 minutes) shows us a typical morning of a struggling mother and her daughter as they sell tacos and dream of a better life.

Flawed (12:20 minutes) is a whimsical animated tale about accepting yourself, flaws and all.

Blank Canvas (3:28 minutes) introduces us to a woman going through chemotherapy, who turns her baldness into a blank canvas for self expression.

Whakatiki: A Spirit Rising (12:48 minutes) is a story about a day at the river that awakens the spirit of a woman held captive by years of broken promises.

Lunch Date (11:07 minutes) is a story about a woman whose boyfriend sends his 14-year-old brother to break the news that he’s dumped her.

Eight of these films had screened at various major film festivals, with one premiering at Lunafest.

They say the secret to writing a short story is “knowing exactly when to begin and when to end.” That rule was put to very effective use in every one of the nine films, which collectively offered an experience as satisfying as viewing a first-rate movie of traditional length. One hopes that all these films will find a cable channel savvy enough to offer them to a wider viewing audience. (And some would’ve made a charming segment on a news feature like 60 Minutes.)

Lunafest supported the Breast Cancer Fund and the Zonta Club of Burbank. (See myBurbank.com Zonta article.) Judging from the size of the audience and their reaction, Lunafest was a fundraising success as well as a critical one. Lunafest will definitely return next year.

Zonta Club Of Burbank Continues To Champion Women

The Zonta Club of Burbank has been helping and supporting women in the Burbank area since 1936.  Many Burbankers may have heard about the Woman of the Year luncheon, which every fall has been recognizing women who are outstanding community leaders. It’s also Zonta’s signature fundraiser, enabling the club to help women throughout the year.

Zonta -2

Photo By Ross A. Benson

Zonta has been awarding “Wings” grants to adult women who have endured a major setback, and who want to re-launch by earning a degree or completing vocational training. For young girls and boys, Zonta has been donating biographies of remarkable women like Amelia Earhardt to Burbank elementary schools.

Zonta’s members have also been aware of the social ills that can fall especially hard on women and the children who depend on them. On behalf of the Burbank Temporary Aid Center, Zonta has collected not only food but items of personal hygiene desperately needed by homeless women.

Zonta -1And the Burbank club has always strongly supported Zonta International’s campaign to eliminate violence against women, a serious social problem that worsens noticeably during hard economic times.

But as laudable as these programs are, they don’t completely explain why the Zonta Club of Burbank has survived while many other service clubs have not. Long time Burbankers may recall that Women’s Club of Burbank, at one time hugely influential, did not survive the sea change in women’s roles. And there was once six Zonta clubs in the San Fernando Valley, with only the Burbank club remaining.

Why? “We have to constantly modernize to appeal to women of all ages,” explains member Nickie Bonner. “We have to compete with corporations that are repairing their image by having their employees do pro bono community service. And young people like my daughter are being lured by newer organizations that are using tools like social media to engage their members and advocate for a cause.”

Editors Note: Read Greg Simay’s reviews of the film recently viewed at Lunafest that support the Zonta Club.

Shanna Warren is Zonta Club’s Woman of the Year

By Joyce Rudolph
BurbankNBeyond

Many boys and girls in Burbank benefit every day from the efforts of the 2012 Woman of the Year.

Shanna Warren, chief executive officer for the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley, was lauded by civic officials and friends Saturday during the annual luncheon presented by Zonta Club of Burbank Area at the Castaway.

Burbank Woman of the Year Shanna Warren, center, is congratulated by Zonta Club members, President Grace Farenbaugh, left, and Donna Anderson. (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)

Warren has led the after-school program for youngsters from low-income families since 2004. She started as a volunteer 11 years ago, but was compelled to leave her career as marketing director to work full time for the club.

Under her leadership the club has grown from one site serving 75 youth to 17 locations providing care for more than 1,500 youth a day. In August, two more facilities opened in La Crescenta and Sun Valley that serve 200.

But that’s not all she does. Two years ago, she helped create the Burbank Non-Profit Coalition, made up of a dozen non-profit organizations that partner on projects, share resources and seek to reduce duplication of services. Over the summer, the coalition provided free haircuts, dental and medical exams and backpacks for more than 500 youngsters during a Back to School Fair.

She also donates time to the Burbank Youth Task Force, Burbank Child Care Committee, Burbank Noon Lions Club, La Providencia Guild of Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, and the list goes on.

Mayor Dave Golonski noted that the Woman of the Year program left out one of the words in the title.

“It should have read Shanna Warren — Super Woman of the Year,” he said. “Listening to your accomplishments we are feeling like slackers. You are changing and saving lives every day.”

Rep. Adam Schiff attended the event and commended her for her tireless efforts.

Zonta President Grace Farenbaugh, who chaired the event, announced that a $500 donation will be made from the Zonta group to the Boys & Girls Club.

“Shanna is the perfect example of if you want to get something done, ask a busy person,” Farenbaugh said.

Warren was not only touched but embarrassed by all the accolades bestowed upon her, she said.

“This means a lot to me. I will never forget it. My wish is that years from now when my daughter comes across the program from today I hope she grows up to be a strong woman who wants to help others. That would be my ultimate success story.”