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A Brief History of the Zonta Club of: Christchurch North

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ZONTA CLUB OF CHRISTCHURCH NORTH (No. 807):  Chartered June 29 1977

Mrs Eva Gilmour, our Club’s excellent Charter President, concentrated on building a strong fellowship base among the members and organised the Club into its first fundraising activities for the community.  A recipe book was collated and sold so well a second edition was printed. Money raised was distributed to local charities and purchased a rescue raft for the Pegasus Surf Life-saving Club.  The following year, the Club raised funds for a children’s paddling pool incorporated into the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pool complex in 1978-9 which is still in use today (1992) 15 years later.

Charter Members (31):

Carol Burton (nee Milne) (PR Chair)Pamela Irvine (Vice President, Chair of Fellowship)
Joanne CartlandBeverley Kingston (Corresponding Secretary, Chair of Membership, Mini-projects & Service, Newsletter Editor)
Phyllis CaukwellRhonda Knight (Chair of International & Intercity)
Jean CollettShirley McKenzie
Betty ChambersEileen Macer
Ruth CottamMary Moran (Chair of Programme)
Mary FisherHelen Murdoch
Carol Gardiner (Treasurer)Kathleen Norris
Eva Gilmore (President)Frances Prinsep
Wilma GillianJoan Radcliffe
Gladys Goodall (Dinner Secretary, Chair of Fundraising)Vera Scott
Frances GroeberRenee Sisson
Denise HartsongeRosalyn Smith
Muriel HillMerle Turner
Gillian HobbsHanny van Til
Colleen Howard

Notable events – In 1991, our Club sponsored the formation of the Zonta Club of North Canterbury and nine of our Charter and valuable members transferred.

Projects

Over the years, the Club has been responsible for many projects and supported many worthy causes-St John’s Ambulance, mini-bus for the elderly in Rangiora, foetal heart monitor machine at Christchurch Women’s Hospital, Child Cancer Foundation, Cot Death Society, Kidney Dialysis camper van, TV/radio for CPR education,-these are but a very few.
A Club project was the printing of a hard-covered book, ’The Friendship Book’, featuring favourite poems, and quotations compiled by Club members and published in 1979. Requests are still being received for copies.

Shortbread
In 1995 when a group on the Fundraising Committee were searching for new ventures, Carolyn Marks and Anne Johnston came up with the idea to approach member Hanny van Til and ask her if we could make shortbread in their factory to sell prior to Christmas.
The van Tils agreed to this, and this fund-raiser started that year and continued until the end of 2003. A small group of us would work on the Friday night preparing an amount of dough, while two shifts of Zontians, including some husbands (about 20 per shift) worked from 9-12.30 or 12.30 – 3.30. members then sold the finished product to friends, family and workmates. The shortbread became more popular each year, and many thousands of dollars worth was sold over the years.
It was a wonderful effort, and our thanks must go to the van Til family for their incredible generosity. – Eleanor Stewart

Golf Tournament
An Annual Golf Tournament held for the past 11 years is always very popular, enabling us to distribute thousands of dollars raised from this event to a variety of charities.  During the International Year of the Aging, our Zonta Club member, the late Beverley Kingston, was responsible for introducing ‘Life Tubes’ which our Club distributed to hundreds of elderly people living alone.  Christchurch City Mission is an on-going project. Two Club members staff the centre one day each month to answer telephone and door enquiries.  Each year since 1979, the Club has donated funds to ‘The Mayor of Christchurch’s Children’s Holiday Camp’, which is held during the summer holiday for under-privileged children.  For the past 5 years, we have provided 150 toiletry care kits to the Christchurch Women’s Refuge and we hope that this project can be a continuing one.

Auction to Raise Funds to Train a Guide Dog
In 1994, our club started saving to pay for the training of one guide dog, which would cost $7000. The Find-raising committee needed to organise a range of events that would raise a lot of money, to help cover this as well as our other financial commitments.   We were already running a Golf Tournament, and we had our regular Clothing Awards and Fashion Parade, but these were to fund those other charities.
Someone on the committee was aware that Lady Adrienne Stewart, a long-serving member of the Christchurch-Canterbury club, was very interested in fundraisers being held to provide money for guide dogs and she generously offered her home on Scarborough Hill as a venue. So we decided to have an auction in a home. Some of the committee canvassed businesses in Sumner and Ferrymead for articles and restaurant meals, and some club members also provided suitable items.
On the evening was the added attraction of a 22year old blind woman with her guide dog. Over $14000 raised, so we paid for the training of two dogs which were used in the Canterbury area. What an evening, and one of the factors leading to its success was that everything was donated, including food and wine.
In 1996, a second auction was organised by the same committee, this time at the lovely Fendalton home of Libby and Denver Glass, overlooking the Wairarapa Stream. Again, all items were donated, and over $8000 raised for our charities. – Eleanor Stewart

Scholarships and Awards

In 1990, our Club was responsible for instigating the Zonta Charity Debate, the first topic being ‘Kiwi Men Leave a Lot to be Desired’. We were supported by the two other Zonta Clubs in our city. We filled the Christchurch Town Hall and made a profit of $32,000 which was used to set up Tertiary Education Scholarships. The 1992 Debate profit topped up the Scholarship Fund and the balance of $5000 was donated to the Kate Sheppard Memorial.
Outstanding and special events are many and varied. For 12 years, the Zonta Club of Christchurch North has held the Clothing Design and Tailoring Competitions in conjunction with secondary school clothing courses. Clothing students can enter up to 10 different competition categories. Entrants make garments which they model at an evening show. Money raised from this is used to provide Education Scholarships. Many prize winners have gone on to careers in the fashion industry.

Christchurch North’s Clothing Awards (1988 – 1999)
Started by Eleanor Stewart and Ruth Russ, these awards continued for eleven years, held initially at Burnside High School, then when a larger venue was needed, at the Ngaio Marsh ballroom and finally at the Jade Development Centre Atrium. Many people were involved over the years, working in small committees. I spent several years as compere for the evenings.
The aims were all to do with the Status of Women, and designed to make the girls with this subject at school feel challenged and special. The task of making their way down the catwalk in their own garments gave them a wonderful confidence boost. The prizes were also excellent, the top one being one year’s tuition in Pattern-making and Design at Chch Polytechnic and other moneys raised from the competition used to fund scholarships for two girls to enable them to return to school to complete their education, which might not otherwise have been financially possible. Schools were invited to submit the names of suitable candidates from their schools. Trustbank Canterbury was the major sponsor of this event for a number of years.
All secondary schools in Christchurch were invited to take part and there were categories for junior and senior students, who made and modelled their own outfits. The work to presented was in accordance with t he school curriculum, and the girls would bring their items to the venue on the Friday before the Monday event, where, well-insured (these were their external exam items), they would stay for the weekend, while the judges, usually professionals, such as Zora Price from the Polytech, Val Congdon, Sally Ansley and other different ones over the years, would make their selections.
In the earlier days of the competition, the administration was very difficult, especially without the emails we take for granted now for instant responses. There were the application forms, the drawing up of schedules, the venue to book, the entertainment to arrange (often a band or singer from a school, and dignitaries to invite (the mayor was one). Then of course there was the huge management task on the day meeting and greeting, ticket collection, seating of parents, judges and guests, organising of the girls getting themselves dressed, standing in the right order and holding their numbers properly. Organising the entrants was usually done by teacher members of the club, like Gayle Cameron and Jean Gage, who had plenty of experience with excited 14 – 16 year old girls flocking about and chattering, full of nervous tension. The compering could be very tricky, as if the order was wrong, or a girl had the wrong number, or didn’t appear at all, I would then have my following announcements all wrong!
I recall a panicky moment one year when printing of the 400 programmes was very late due to last-minute changes, and Margaret Duggan (formerly Mundy) rushed in with them just before the start of the evening, and blurted out “They’re not folded!” Well, the job was done, but things like that gave you nightmares!  Recollections of Jenny Bond, as told to Marg Esplin

Christmas Shortbread-making fellowship fundraisers 1993-2003
About 12 years ago, Anne Johnston and I were on our way back home from a Zonta meeting, when we started talking about possible new projects, and she asked me what I thought about baking shortbread to sell before Christmas. Could my business bake it for the club in our bakery for club members to sell?
This led to my suggesting that all the club members could come on a Saturday and do the baking themselves. That way Zonta would make more money. The my husband John offered to provide the whole bakery free for us, and the club would pay for the ingredients at cost. So it was arranged and what a lot of fun it provided for club members, and almost all of them took part.
Every year on the first Saturday in December until the last time in 2003, Zonta took over the whole bakery, and I provided lunch in our cafeteria. The dough was prepared the night before, so can you imagine us the next day, all in aprons and bakery hats, cutting, pricking, baking and then wrapping and sealing the packages, counting out the orders, and bagging them, changing jobs from time to time. Some years we nearly melted with 30 degree heat outside combining with the warmth of the bakery!
Towards the end we were pre-selling shortbread in packs of a dozen pieces, making over $2000 for the club charities.  Whenever I went to Convention, quite often a Zontian would come up to me and remark, “Oh, your club does Zonta shortbread!” All our family used to come and help us that day. Recollections of Hanny van Til

Historical Accounts and Anecdotes

Dallas Convention 1990
Christchurch North was represented by president Anne McPhail and husband David, Hanny van Til and John, Anne Johnston and Eleanor Stewart. This was the first of many Conventions attended by Eleanor and Anne, and of many more by Hanny.  The whole experience was almost overwhelming for us kiwis. We were housed in the largest (until then) hotel I had stayed in, with an atrium the size of a football field and a ceiling that seemed thousands of feet high! The convention venue seated 3-4000 people.
The opening ceremony, with the official flags and all those of the 60 Districts of the time – Indians, Africans, Indonesians, Europeans, Japanese, just to mention some, all in their national costumes, was a wonderful experience. The whole convention was memorable – meeting, talking and eating with women from all parts of the globe.  Perhaps it is because 1990 was my first convention, but my memories of this one have never faded. – Eleanor Stewart

The combined Zonta clubs of Christchurch Environmental Project 1993-98
This project was to bring to fruition a concept initiated by Fenn Shaw when she was president in 1992, and planned with the Drainage and Water Management Unit of the Christchurch City Council (architect Christine Heremaia) to develop and plant a run-down area of the Styx River between Harbour Road and the floodgates.
The council were a wonderful support, not only with their expertise and finance, but with their practical help such as having their workers and machinery clear the sites as the work progressed. They also funded a water pump to ease the back-breaking work of hauling water from the river in buckets, a video of progress on the project, and also Fenn’s registration and accommodation costs for her to speak about the project at the Dunedin Conference in 1995. Other groups such as the Wai-Ora trust and the Spencer Park Rangers helped by cutting back unwanted regrowth such as willows, gorse, and blackberry.
Initially all the Zonta clubs were to provide about four members each, plus husbands and partners, for the working bee one Saturday morning and one Sunday afternoon alternating months, clearing and burning scrub, planting cabbage trees, flaxes, carexes, sedges, and saltmarsh ribbonwoods and other natives, erecting protective shelters around them, and in summer clearing weeds and watering. Although it was quite heavy work, a dedicated group of the city’s Zontians worked with enthusiasm each month, even on frosty winter mornings and melting nor’west summer ones. There was always a good shared morning/afternoon tea, with lots of chat and laughter, and one year, Margaret Mundy (now in the Blenheim club) arranged a barbecue courtesy of the Council to acknowledge the work. A video of progress was made by the council’s Water-Enhancement unit and shown at the CCC Environmental Awareness Week in 1995. Margaret Yorke and Iris Orchard of the Christchurch Club were absolute stalwarts of the project. Iris even biked out from her home in Ilam Rd to the project with a bucket attached and spent the afternoon watering the wilting plants and then biked home again. She told nobody that she was going to do this!
By the end of the project, 5000 plants had been put in, though not all survived, umpteen thousand buckets of water had been carted, thousands of barrows of mulch spread, and over 8000 stakes banged in for the shelters. This was an impressive commitment by the Christchurch clubs, and by those stalwart members and their partners, such as Rod Shaw, who gave so much of their time over the five years, to make what is now called The Zonta Project such a worthwhile and successful service activity.

Notable Members

  • Achievements of our members include:
    • Mrs Hanny Van Til, a Charter member of the Club, and husband, John, have been awarded many times the Baker of the Year Award for New Zealand.
    • Yvonne Loader achieved prominence in aviation when she established a World Gliding record by soaring in her glider to just over an altitude of 37,000 feet at Mt Cook. She is currently the holder of eight New Zealand records.
    • Our Charter President Mrs Eve Gilmore, was awarded the QSM for Community Service for her work with Save The Children Fund after leaving Zonta.
    • Gladys Goodall, a past member, was awarded the QSM for Public Services. She is a well-known photographer active in the Church and has been involved with women’s issues and community work for many years.
  • Members who have held district office
    • Carolyn Marks – Area 3 Director
  • Members who have historical knowledge of the Club or ZI
    • Marg Esplin, Hanny van Til, Anne Johnston

Compiled by Historian: Margaret Esplin