The Zonta Club of Denver (ZCD) was the first Zonta club formed between Chicago and San Francisco. Its first meeting was on March 11, 1927, with an initial membership of 35 women recruited by Graciann Warner, an organizer for the Confederation of Zonta Clubs, Inc. The club’s charter was presented on August 18, 1927, by Louise Gerry, the sixth president of the Confederation. The club was incorporated as a nonprofit Colorado corporation in 1932.
The club struggled through the Depression years and reached its peak membership of approximately 130 members in the early 1980s. Since then membership has gradually declined. The club has 37 members as of January 1, 2017.
The club has sponsored numerous other clubs during the years, including the Zonta Clubs of Kansas City I, Missouri; Pikes Peak Area, Colorado; Prowers County, Colorado; Billings, Montana; Black Hills, South Dakota; Boulder County, Colorado; Laramie, Wyoming; Converse County, Wyoming; Glendive Area, Montana; Pierre-Ft. Pierre, South Dakota; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Ft. Collins, Colorado; and Douglas County, Colorado; and other clubs that have not survived.
The efforts of the ZCD led to the formation of District XII in 1952. Former District VII governor, A. Helen Anderson of ZCD, was its temporary chairman until it was officially organized and a Governor elected. That was accomplished in October of 1952. A number of ZCD members have served as District Governors:
- Helen Anderson (District VII)
- Neva Hayden (District VII)
- Marguerite P. Mayer (1952-1954)
- Vivienne W. Pendleton (1958-1960)
- Virginia L. Razee (1970-1972)
- Marjorie Nell Pickett (1978-1980)
- Dolores Lowery (1982-1984)
- Dorothy Swindt (1992-1994)
- Jacquelyn N. Sammons (1994-1996)
- Judith Allen (1998-2000)
- Mary Benoit (2002-2004)
- Sheila Davis (2012-2014)
Leota Pekrul of ZCD served as president of Zonta International from 1970-1972.
The club hosted the Zonta International Convention of 1940 in Estes Park, Colorado, and the Convention of 1978 in Denver.
In District 12, clubs rotate hosting of District Conferences and in its turn, ZCD has hosted numerous District 12 Conferences, most recently the 2009 Conference.
ZCD started a short monthly bulletin late in 1927, which later became the club news letter, the Smoke Signal, which was first published in 1930 and continues to the current time.
ZCD’s longest-lived service project was its sponsorship of Denver Girls, a partnership with Denver Public Schools that provided mentors and counseling for at-risk middle- and high-school girls. ZCD, with the Rotary Club of Denver and Ladies of Rotary, co-founded Denver Girls, and continued to support it for more than 30 years.
The club started a Career Night for Girls in 1938 that continued until 1944, when the Denver Public Schools, recognizing its value, started a Career Day in each of the Denver senior high schools.
ZCD has long made contributions for scholarship and currently makes periodic contributions to a fund at the Metropolitan State University of Denver Foundation for single-mother students.
Grants have been made in recent years to Open Door Ministries, Denver Children’s Choir, Extended Hands of Hope, Boys Hope Girls Hope, Friends of the Haven, Work Options for Women, The Delores Project, and other nonprofits. Club members also donate their time to many organizations. During recent years, members have served monthly dinners to the clients of The Delores Project, a homeless shelter for unaccompanied women, and have put on a holiday party at The Haven, a residential treatment facility for women.
A “Foundation Fund” was established in 1930-31 and it was augmented over the years by bequests from members and others. In the 1950s or early 1960s, the Foundation Fund was specifically dedicated to service.
In 1962, Zonta Chapel, Inc. was incorporated as a not-for-profit Colorado corporation for the purpose of raising money to establish and furnish a non-sectarian chapel. One of the organizers was Leota Pekrul, who was the personnel director of University Hospital, the teaching hospital of the University of Colorado Medical School, where the chapel was located and kept in trim by ZCD until the hospital moved to a new location in 2007.
In 1978 the purpose of Zonta Chapel, Inc. was broadened to include support of any service project approved by ZCD or Zonta International, and its name was changed, first to Zonta Denver Service, Inc., and, in 2007, to Zonta Club of Denver Foundation. Additional bequests have been received by this entity and the earnings on investments, together with the club’s earnings from fashion shows, a film screening, and other fund-raising events, have allowed ZCD to make annual grants of $30,000 to $40,000 to local agencies that serve at-risk women and girls.
A $100,000 grant from Zonta Denver Service, Inc., financed the Herstory wall on the Welton Street side of the Colorado Conventional Center (part of what Denver calls Colorado Panorama: a People’s History), completed in 1991. Herstory, a computer-generated tile mural by artist Barbara Jo, represents the faces and activities of women important to Colorado’s past, including three who were Zonta members.
In 2011, ZCD received a National Philanthropy Day® award for demonstrating outstanding commitment through financial support and the encouragement and motivation of others to take leadership roles in philanthropy and community involvement.”
In addition to its donations to local organizations, ZCD has long donated one-third of its total service dollars to Zonta International for international service projects, including the Amelia Earhart Scholarships.
Author: Judith McNerny edited 5/1/2020
Sources: A Zonta Moment by Barb Pellegren, 2002; History of the Zonta Club of Denver, probably by Maywood Graber, 1964; Zonta Club of Denver records; Dorothy Swindt and other club members