Making Happy Stories Come True
As Zonta Club of Kauai bids farewell to president Darrellyn Lemke, its members say hello to new president Carla Kaser — and to another year of dedicated community service. The all-women’s club consists of business professionals, both working and retired, committed to lending a hand in the community by volunteering for various projects.
Each year, for example, the group works with The Garden Island to help distribute gifts to those in need. Zonta/TGI Christmas Fund connects people who have the means to give with those who are less fortunate. Stories are published in TGI about kama‘aina going through difficult times, in hope that readers will decide to spread some holiday joy. The stories are printed every day, starting after Thanksgiving and concluding Christmas Eve. Zonta Club collects donations and purchases gifts for the families featured in the stories, whose names are withheld for privacy reasons.
“It really works,” notes Yoshiko “Dimples” Kano, who has chaired the project since 2000.
Last year, the club spent some $30,000 on various gifts, such as helping a young woman in an abusive relationship and her child travel to Oahu.
“I made a guarantee that I would pay for it,” says Kano. “Even if there were no funds, I would pay for it out of my pocket.”
She didn’t have to — the money came pouring in. “These are the kind of happy stories we like to hear,” she says.
In fact, last year, the club worked with nine nonprofit agencies to provide gift cards to more than 240 individuals.
Lemke has served with Zonta Club of Kauai for two decades. She loves helping her community in these kinds of ways, and has plans to continue doing so after passing on her presidential reins. “It really makes me feel good giving back,” says the State Farm insurance agent.
She even attributes her professional and personal success on the island to her involvement with the club.
“Darrellyn has done such a good job,” says Mary Thronas, who has been a member since 1974. “We just love her because she does everything for us.”
Kano, who jokingly calls herself “the old lady of the club,” agrees, and is excited about the next year of service with her fellow members. She has been affiliated with the nonprofit since 1972 and knew many of its founding members, who organized the first local chapter in 1952.
Zonta Club was founded in the early 1900s in New York by a small group of college-educated women who wanted to inspire and uplift other women and help out in their community. It since has grown to worldwide status as Zonta International and has had many prominent members, including Amelia Earhart.
“It’s necessary to keep stressing the importance of women in the community,” notes Thronas, a retired flight attendant and former Kauai County Council member.
The island’s Zonta Club has been responsible for a number of activities that have boosted the importance of women and made a significant impact on the local community. One is the Weinberg Project that allows the club to work with organizations such as Kauai Economic Opportunity, with which it recently partnered to make more than 50 all-in-one comfort sets to give to clients transitioning from the shelter into their own homes. They also are responsible for offering scholarships to students, and assisting with YWCA’s Pink Sunday, when they donated 20 baskets to women in the shelter last year.
“That makes me feel really good,” says Lemke. Zonta Club of Kauai also is known for its Eat Dessert First signature fundraiser, held each February for some 20 years. The sweet celebration started out with few participants but has grown to include hundreds, and its financial assistance helps provide scholarships for high school seniors, as well as the education of women reentering the workforce by attending Kauai Community College.
For her part, new president Carla Kaser says, “It feels very exciting and I look forward to working with all the wonderful women of the Zonta Club of Kauai toward empowering women through service and advocacy.
“One goal is to start a Golden Z Club at KCC. I would also continue the work started by our past two presidents in raising awareness about the pledge to say no to violence against women.”
Visit zonta-kauai.org for more information.