Burb's Eye View: Checking in with Zonta's good works

Below the din and electric stress of last week's Burbank Literacy Spelling Bee, a little blue card floated my way.

I sat at the judges' table looking out at a beaming team of library employees, folks who "have had 30 years, eight hours a day" to practice for the bee, according to event emcee Drew Sugars. They looked somewhat drained as we rose to congratulate their hard-earned win. It was a long night, a good night, and the library's literacy program is better off for it.

I sank into my seat again and there was the card. It had been there since the first round, flattened under a heavy binder of spellings, word usages and contest rules.

In glowing letters, it announced "Lunafest," a collection of short films by, for and about women. I had heard of the Zonta Club, but I never knew what they did. I decided to give them a call.

Nickie Bonner, a past president of the Zonta Club of Burbank, picked up the phone. Her club is sponsoring the festival to help raise funds for the group's educational grant program and other projects. The event — organized by LUNA, a company that produces nutrition bars — will take place June 8 at the Laemmle Theater in North Hollywood.

"We want to fill the theater — our biggest hope is that we'll need a bigger theater," she said.

Zonta Clubs have been around since 1919. Burbank's chapter began in 1936 and since then has helped raise women's issues in the community. It donates books about influential women to elementary schools, and three years ago began its grant program to help women who have experienced setbacks earn a degree.

This is the first time the group has hosted the film festival, which consists of nine short films about relationships, health and empowerment.

"We are encouraging women filmmakers, drawing the attention to the work of women that we might not otherwise hear about," Bonner said. "This is the work of people who are passionate filmmakers, who are in it for the art as much as anything."

Their work parallels the Zonta Club's mission. This group of female executives and professionals was originally formed in response to the many worldwide community service clubs that were restricted to men. As women's roles have changed over the last 80 years, the Zonta mission has adapted. Today, it advocates women's rights everywhere.

"Our mission has never been more relevant than it is today — global communication has made us much more aware that no matter how many advances we've made in the U.S., we have a long way to go for women around the world," Bonner said.

In Burbank, the members of Zonta affect that change on a smaller level, though it's no less important. With the $15,000 in grants it has distributed during the past three years, women who have been stuck in abusive relationships or who have struggled to push themselves forward have been given a small boost toward education and a better life.

A $20 movie ticket will help support that mission. For a tiny blue postcard, that paper packed a punch.

For more information, visit http://www.zontaburbank.org.


BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. When he's not visiting film festivals, he can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter at @818NewGuy.

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