Written by Lois Bauccio
Following months and months of preparation, and amidst an atmosphere of excitement that we can only imagine, the Zonta Club of the Santa Clarita Valley Area was chartered on Wednesday afternoon, the 20th of November, 1974. Hosting the event at the Ranch House Inn in Valencia, the Zonta Club of Burbank sponsored the new club at a luncheon that was presided over by Zonta International President, Eleanor Jammal of Ashtabula, Ohio, and District 9 Governor, Irene Anderson of Santa Rosa.
The members of the new club must have been awestruck by the presence of these esteemed Zonta leaders. After so much preparation -- the research, the marketing, the organizing -- undoubtedly the 24 new Zontians were deeply proud of their brand-new club. Members were from Newhall, Saugus, Valencia, Canyon Country, Castaic, and the other county areas surrounding the valley. The City of Santa Clarita had not yet been formed. At the time of the club chartering there were 656 clubs across 47 countries in Zonta International. The chartering on Wednesday was followed by a day of meetings to work with the International President regarding officer and committee chair responsibilities. The installation of members and officers followed on Friday evening, November 22, 1974. This time, the dining room at the Ranch House Inn was filled with the families and friends of the members, representatives from the N-S-V (Newhall, Saugus, Valencia) and Canyon Country Chambers of Commerce, County dignitaries and members of the press. (Linda Pederson, who wrote so many articles about the new club, was officially named an Honorary Zontian.) The theme of the event was "Walking Tall", and that must have been how each of the new Zontians felt when they had their glittering "Pinning Ceremony" presided over by ZI President Eleanor; none more so than the Founding President, Veva Kinkaid and her new board.
Little is found in our records about Veva Kinkaid; it seems she was more interested in promoting the club than herself. She served as president for two terms (74/75 and 75/76), however, and during those two years, the club grew in membership and thrived in community respect. In addition to the monthly board meeting, Veva presided over monthly business breakfast meetings (7:30 a.m.!) and monthly lunch program meetings for the growing membership. All of those meetings, in the days before digital communications, were announced and covered in the press. The importance of The Newhall Signal newspaper in the growth of Zonta cannot be overstated. The whole community knew about the new club and the exciting programs and activities being held.
Meetings in those days took place in a variety of locations around town including the Chamber of Commerce office, Beale's Cut Restaurant, Ranch House Inn, the Newhall Bowl, Canyon Country Buffet Restaurant, and many others.
Many of those locations were also the sites for early fundraising events. Other venues included the American Legion Hall, Cal Islands, Le Chene, and more. Fundraising activities included Monte Carlo and Las Vegas Casino nights, art auctions, raffles, parking lot "swap meets" and boutiques, bake sales, fashion shows, high teas, and many other creative ways to raise dollars. The fundraising events were very important. Struggles in the early years were primarily financial as the new club increased income for service and program funds. Club dues were $32 in those days, and income then, as now, had to be augmented with fundraising events if the club was going to fund scholarships and other service activities.
The first Zontians served on the following committees: Amelia Earhart, Attendance, Fellowship, Finance, Inter City, International Relations, Safety, Service, Status of Women, Z Club, Hospitality, and Telephone.
The two years following the chartering biennium, were years of more great growth. Under the second club president, Mary Stafford (76/77 & 77/78), the club continued to thrive. Mary had been a founding member. Her business with her husband, Color Lab, was in Burbank, and she had been a member of the Burbank club prior to the chartering of SCV Zonta. In fact, she worked with the members of the Burbank Club to create the new club. The Staffords lived in Wildwood Canyon in Newhall; a beautiful home that became the site for many social and fundraising club activities throughout her membership in SCV Zonta.
In 1976, SCV Zonta sponsored the formation of its first Z Club at Canyon High School which had opened just a few years earlier in 1973. The school was looking for service clubs for the students, and Zonta had become known for the kind of community and civic engagement that would be beneficial to the students. The Z Club, which at that time was exclusive to girls, hosted a blood drive and produced a bike-a-thon and a fashion show which together raised $4,000. They donated the $4k to a seeing eye dog program that in turn presented a service dog to a young local girl who had lost her sight. The founding president of Z Club CHS was Donna Landry. Each year, SCV Zonta donated three scholarships of $175.00 to graduating seniors of the Z Club.
In addition to the Z Club scholarships and general support for the Z Club, other community contributions SCV Zonta made during that period were to the community 4th of July Fund, Christmas baskets for the poor, the purchase of equipment for the newly built Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, and visits and gifts to elderly women in local nursing homes.
Internationally, contributions were made to the Amelia Earhart Scholarship Fund and the Marian De Forest Fund. Also in 1976, two new members, Joyce Wayman (Former Zontian, Rosalind Wayman's mother) and Virginia Berger (Zonta's supporter Mike Berger's mother) joined founding members such as Alice MacWhirter (who described herself as a teacher, artist, dancer and singer), Jo Anne Darcy, Jackie Nichols and Sara-Faye Wood, all amazing women whose names are found throughout newspaper stories as committee chairs. They were the officers, directors and project leaders who created the culture and activities of SCV Zonta. Joyce and Virginia jumped right in and dedicated their time to strengthening the new club and promoting Zonta's mission to improve lives of women, locally and internationally.
1978 saw another new era in club history as founding member, Jo Anne Darcy, became the club's third president. Jo Anne was a leader of the N-S-V Chamber, and as such she had collected a full rolodex of community leaders who she could call upon to support Zonta. She defined Zonta as "the most important organization for women in the executive and professional world". Social activities and programs during this era reached a level that was the envy of other local service groups. A great example was the Installation of Officers which was themed as "An Italian Luau" featuring a mock Leaning Tower of Pisa festooned with Hawaiian leis. That was the beginning of SCV Zonta's famous themed installation events. Mary Stafford became Area 3 Director at the end of her second term as president that year, and in the historic record, that is when a new member joined SCV Zonta. Carmen Sarro would set a new standard for volunteerism, so much so that decades later following her passing, the "Status of Women Luncheon" was rebranded as "Women in Service", and the award presented that day was renamed "The Carmen Sarro Award" for outstanding service. There is a plaque naming Carmen on the Western Walk of Fame, Main Street.
Throughout the 70s, other influential women joined the club and continued leading the way for SCV Zonta's respect in the Zonta world, led by Connie Worden (later, Connie Worden-Roberts). Connie was passionate about making sure the "Cross Valley Connector" would be built to relieve traffic at the "Bouquet Junction". She and Jo Anne Darcy, who worked for years for 5th District County Supervisor, Michael Antonovich and was eventually elected to City of Santa Clarita Council and Mayor, were among the strongest leading forces in our community, male or female. Today, one of the community's many bridges is named for Connie, and the Canyon Country Library is named for Jo Anne. Membership in Zonta during that time was highly competitive. Internationally, we were known as "That Club" because of our many successes and financial contributions to ZI. The club was then, as now, thought of as demonstrative of strong leadership.
In November of 1979, SCV Zonta celebrated Zonta International's 60th Anniversary with a special dinner at Cal Islands Restaurant. The speaker was a young woman who had recently joined the club, having been a two-time recipient of Zonta International's Amelia Earhart Fellowship Program. Dr. Sharon Langenbeck, who was then employed at Lockheed-California in the Fatigue and Fractures Mechanics Laboratory. Sharon had also just been selected as the Chairman of the Amelia Earhart Fellowship Committee of District 9. Far sighted people in that audience might have thought that this young woman could be President of Zonta International one day!
At that event, the club also celebrated its own fifth anniversary. In just five short years, the club had grown from 24 to 70 members. At that time there were 750 clubs in 46 countries. In the five years since SCV Zonta's chartering, ZI had lost one country. but gained 94 clubs.
Another Zonta International activity to celebrate the 60th Anniversary was a float in the Rose Parade that following January first. The Seventies rounded out with floats in the Newhall 4th of July Parade for a few years, and Carmen Sarro joined the staff of "The Signal Newspaper" as "Carmenita Tumbleweed".
Carmen's gossip column of hilarious stories, and the family fun of the Independence Day floats ensured that the club's marketing supported its membership growth. An annual event known then as The Silver Wings Banquet highlighted our club's interest in women in aerospace careers through our celebration of Amelia Earhart.
When the Eighties came along, the club was strong enough to begin some substantive service and fundraising projects. There was the Valentine Kidnap that raised awareness of the club in the business community. Santa Clarita's only event showcasing the work of local women, the Status of Women Brunch (later, "Women in Service") began in 1982; the Zonta Roast (later called "The Tribute") started in 1983; and in 1986, Zonta became a partner with the Girl Scouts, the Association to Aid Victims of Domestic Violence (AAVDV, later the Domestic Violence Center), and College of the Canyons to launch the community's first Women's Conference.
The Nineties was another decade of Zonta excellence with activities including the formation of the Healthy Kids Club and the Virginia Wrage Memorial Scholarship beginning in 1995; Rent-a-Santa and the International Art Auction beginning in 1997; and the Senior Bread Bake starting in 1998. In addition, the annual joint meeting with Soroptimist began in 1998 during the presidency of Judy Penman.
As we moved into the new century, new activities included Healthy Woman's Day in partnership with Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital operated from 2006-2009. LifeForward, partnering with Single Mothers' Outreach, and the Girl's Robotics Program, partnering with the Boys and Girls Club were also formed.
Along the way, SCV Zonta created our Foundation giving our club the benefits of 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, and we invited Jerry Hider, very decidedly a man, into membership. The club also adopted the "Unzon" category for husbands, significant others and supportive men in the community including John Boston and Mike Berger among others.
During the research for this article, we learned that in the beginning of the club, new members were automatically placed on two committees -- Membership and Amelia Earhart. We learned that officers and committee chairs met for a full day of training. We learned there is a Zonta Invocation and a Zonta Code of Ethics. But most importantly, we were reminded of the absolutely amazing history of this club in serving our mission. We are unabashedly proud of the Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley during this Women's History Month, 2021.