Zonta Club of Corvallis was chartered October 22, 1940, with 17 founding members. Its first service project was to send two high school students to Girls State, a leadership training program, at Silver Creek Falls in the summer of 1941. During the forties, service focused on the needs of military families, and the club participated in Career Day at the local high school. In 1945, the club’s first legislative advocacy began, focusing on equal rights for women and discrimination in compensation. By 1949, the club sponsored the formation of the Zonta Club of Albany in a neighboring town. They also made a first-ever donation to the Zonta International Amelia Earhart scholarship that year.
As the club grew, so did its budget. By 1951-52 club funds were divided between convention and service funds, and regular services and scholarships were designated. Membership reached 40, and a pancake supper fundraiser was held. Meetings were held jointly with other women’s service organizations in Corvallis, first with Soroptomists and later with Altrusa. The sixties continued this collaboration with joint fundraising for downtown beautification projects, including a fountain for downtown city park. 1961 saw the debut issue of the ZOOM, the club’s monthly newsletter to members which continues in electronic form today. The sixties also saw Corvallis members becoming more active in district activities.
In the late seventies, Zonta began holding auctions in members’ homes with “white elephant” donations, as a means to raise funds for its service projects and grants. By 1983, the club’s annual auctions moved to a community setting and in 1998 to its current location at Oregon State University’s Alumni Center. The early auctions were chaired by the First Vice President. The first several auctions were titled “A Touch of Class”, and have indeed become increasingly classy over time. From 1989-1991, the Children’s Farm Home received a signification share of auction proceeds. In 1991, the Zonta Service Foundation of Corvallis was established as a non-profit foundation to serve as the custodian of auction funds. The auction had a two year hiatus in 1992-1993, when fundraising relied on raffles instead. As the auction grew larger, a new theme was chosen each year, the services of a professional auctioneer were added (2001) and it was professionally catered by Zontian-owned Valley Catering. The Corvallis Zonta Club’s auction now has its own Chair and several subcommittees, corporate sponsors, community business donations, over 200 attendees, and net proceeds in excess of $70,000. The annual auction is now the major funding source for club scholarships and for community grants to other non-profit service organizations.
Beginning in 1990, the club has contracted with the Benton County Fair to collect parking fees, with the proceeds of this annual effort going towards club operating expenses. Other fundraisers over the years have included a daVinci Days Walk/Run (1996-2003), geranium sales (1975-1989), and a food booth at Fall Festival (1980-1993).
The Corvallis Zonta Club has a Friendship Club with the Osaka I club in Japan, with whom they exchange holiday greetings and gifts at Zonta International Conventions. In 2002, the Corvallis club sponsored the formation of the short-lived Zonta Club of Salem, as well as a club in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, Corvallis’s sister city. The Uzhhorod club was chartered in April 2003 and recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary.
Service projects in the last thirty years have included December tree lighting (1972-2010), service to the Children’s Farm Home (1971-1991), service to transitional housing on Day of Caring, donations to Career Closet (from 1999), and Thanksgiving or Valentine basket for the Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence (1985-2012). Ongoing service projects include two Z Clubs at local high schools (formed 1999 and 2002, each with a faculty sponsor and a Zonta advisor), Mother’s Day Tea (since 1982), Rose Day (since 1999), Parent Enhancement Program support, library donations, and Lester B. Pearson United World College donations (since 1983). The Z Clubs also devise their own community and school-based projects. The Corvallis Zonta Club Rose Day observance is unique. Each May since 1999, community members who make a difference, in keeping with a chosen theme for the year, are surprised with an elegantly wrapped, long-stem yellow rose hand-delivered by Zontians with a thank you card from the Club. 150 roses are budgeted.
In 2001, the Zonta club of Corvallis started a group for new members called Les Nouveaux. Members attend monthly one hour meetings for their first year, where they learn about all aspects of Zonta, from local to national and international. In this small group, they are able to build friendships and ask questions of visiting committee chairs and club leaders.
Advocacy and Legislative awareness was spun off from Status of Women committee in 2011, in keeping with Zonta International’s priorities. This new committee hosted a community program on elder abuse as part of the Zonta International Just Say No to Violence campaign, and began a community coalition for advocacy related to the trafficking of minors. This group has hosted public programs and is now responding to requests from the community for educational programs about this issue.
Zonta Club of Corvallis improves the status of women through recognition of outstanding women: selection of a club Zontian of the Year (since 1984), a celebration of Amelia Earhart’s life (since 1985), nominations to Corvallis First Citizen awards (since 1948), and encouragement of high school students to pursue careers in public service through the club’s $1,000 Young Woman in Public Affairs Award.
Zonta Club of Corvallis has a rich and diverse history and an amazing breadth of ongoing activities carried out by its current membership of sixty-five men and women.