Zonta Club Honors Thomas as 2014 Woman of the Year

By On November 3, 2014

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)