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Zonta Club of Syracuse History

The ZONTA Club of Syracuse was founded in 1919, and is one of the original first five founding ZONTA Clubs. As such, we have a rich history of advocacy, community service awards, scholarships and community projects.

Our first President, Mary Jenkins, was also the first ZONTA International President. Mary was instrumental in the development of the ZONTA emblem, the first governing policies and the establishment of what would become one of the most significant worldwide organizations for women.

The first Convention of Clubs was held May 20th to 21st, 1921 in Syracuse, NY. Members from the five founding clubs met to discuss becoming an international organization and how to sponsor new clubs. By 1926, when the convention was held in founding-club Rochester, NY, the International Relations Committee was formed and became the start of ZONTA as an International organization.

Our Club’s commitment to advocacy began at the first meeting and continues through today.

Women's Day at the New York State Fair is an annual event in recognition of women. It began when the Syracuse ZONTA Club campaigned Franklin Roosevelt, then New York State, governor, for a special day and Women were given the former dog show building for their use. The tradition continues today, with keynote speakers of national importance and attendance over 400 for the luncheon.

In 1966, culminating the two-year effort was the establishment of the Syracuse ZONTA Foundation, which purchased ZONTA House, to be sold for $1.00 to the Girls Club of Syracuse. This former Church was completely renovated and served as the meeting place for local neighborhood girls on the near-West side of Syracuse from its inception. Starting with 25-30 girls, it quickly expanded to 200-250 girls by 1968, and today, at what is now ZONTA House at the YWCA, provides programming for close to 1,000 youth in its Summer Camp and other programs. Our Foundation continues the decades-long tradition of providing a Holiday Party for youth and their Mothers, providing a book and a gift to each, along with a party.

In November 1977, Syracuse ZONTA member Arlene LaRue authored and published “All Our Yesterdays”, with the dedication to Mary Jenkins, founder and first ZONTA President. The book was her recollection of growing up in Syracuse, NY. All proceeds were given to the Club to support local community service projects.