Celebrating our Zonta best friends across the globe

Happy International Friendship Day!

Having a best friend is one of life's greatest joys. But when it comes to having a Zonta best friend, it's a whole different level of amazing. Zonta friends are kindred spirits who inspire and challenge you to become the best version of yourself, while also working with you and thousands of others to build a better world for women and girls.

As you immerse yourself in the unique and beautiful stories shared by Zonta members, you will see the unique and invaluable bonds that can be formed at Zonta.

I nominate Theresa Harris as my Zonta best friend. She is an active Zontian who has served her district as an area director and governor and is now the chair of the International Membership Committee. Our first meeting was a tough meet and greet as I was the drill master, and she was the resilient foot soldier.

Theresa’s perseverance inspires me. She is a trailblazing woman who has started two Zonta clubs and most importantly, she always makes time for me. Theresa is thoughtful, optimistic, constructive, resourceful and graciously honest. You could not ask for a better Zonta friend!

Camille Dillard
Zonta Club of Rome, NY, USA, District 2

I am so happy to have a great friend like Leslie Wright (left). She has been such an amazing friend who heard my emptiness on being sorry for not being with Zonta that she called and invited me to all the meetings on Zoom. Soon, I became a member of the Zonta Club of Brooklyn where she is the club president. I thank her for her wonderful leadership!

Imrana Shahidullah
Zonta Club of Brooklyn, NY, USA, District 3

Through my friend, Lori Yosick (right), I had participated in many Zonta fundraisers and service opportunities over the past several years. While I met Happiness (center) through our church, I was delighted to see her involved with Zonta as well.

These women are sisters of my heart and two of my very dearest friends. I was at a point in my life where I was able to become a member last year and enjoy it. It is groups like Zonta that bring like-minded people together, often resulting in lasting friendships.

Jennifer Cooper
Zonta Club of Columbus, OH, USA, District 5

Zonta has enriched my life with many friendships, collaborations and fellowships with women who value service and empowering women. I am fortunate enough to have two best friends, Jennifer Cooper and Happiness Mapira, in my club that are part of my " non-Zonta" activities and social circle as well.  One I met through Zonta, and one I brought into the Zonta fold.

Jennifer had been a bestie for many years who had attended Zonta events as a guest before joining this year. Happiness was a Zonta member who just " clicked " with me, and then I discover she and Jennifer attend the same church. Our social time includes many stories of Zonta, and it is wonderful having friends in both "worlds." I can definitely say that Zonta has strengthened our friendship as we work to serve together.

Lori Yosick
Zonta Club of Columbus, OH, USA, District 5

I nominate Debra “Deb” Kellerman as my Zonta best friend, who has been a member for more than 30 years. She is also an area director for Areas 1 and 3. She has held many different offices in the club over the years. I believe Deb is the heart and soul of our club.

Deb passionately believes in the missions we share. When a new club member joins, she gets them involved right away whether on a committee or the board. She encourages them at the same time she volunteers them. We tell her, with love and respect, that she must have invented the term “voluntold.”

Tirelessly organized, I believe that Deb is a “puppet master” in a good way because she holds all the strings and coordinates our club in a caring and dedicated way. She’s been integral to the success and ongoing events of our club. She’s also a mentor for anyone that asks for help or direction. She’s a terrific inspiration for not only me, but the entire club!

Laurie Oppel
Zonta Club of St Cloud, USA, District 7

Living in a small rural community one often knows “of” someone without really knowing them. Such was the case with Anna Goodberlet (left) and I, until I joined Zonta 10 years ago.

We found we have many similarities – one being the mission of Zonta, but others like travel, adventure and a certain author. Today, Anna is my closest confidant, an instant co-chair of events and a fabulous travel buddy when the men in our lives are not interested.

We can both say that Zonta has made a difference in our lives, and also know that we are making a difference in the lives of others as well.

Janice Krizik Schmidt
Zonta Club of Jamestown, ND, USA, District 7

I met Regine and Karin from the Zonta Club of Berlin, Germany, through Facebook three years ago, and since then, I have visited them every year in Berlin. I share a garden in Mietgendorf with my best friend Gabi (right), who comes to Berlin very often. The last time we all met was on International Women’s Day, and we enjoyed a wonderful supper together. Sharing our stories, we have come to realize that working toward women’s equality is the same all over the world, and together, we CAN make the world a better place for women and girls!

Penny Briese
Zonta Club of Jamestown, ND, USA, District 7

Lydia Summer (left) is my Zonta best friend. I first met her 10 years ago through a mutual friend when we were both "new to motherhood," and this bond is what connected us. Between laughter and bonding, we were willing to be vulnerable and authentic with each other about mothering, which was the sustenance and healing we needed in those first few months.

Since then, Lydia has inspired me to live up to my best potential. The time you can truly grow as a human being is when you have the opportunity to listen to people who are different from you. Lydia offers new perspectives, ideas, experiences and advice that helps me learn more about myself and grow as a well-rounded human.

Megan Cattoor
Zonta Club of Cape Girardeau, USA, District 7

I could go on about all the great reasons to be a Zontian, but my Zonta best friend, Deanna Arevelo (left), tops my list!

Deanna was one of the first new faces I met at Zonta and she made sure to find me at events. Our friendship has grown, and she has helped me grow as a fellow entrepreneur, made me a better momma and shown me true friendship. I love her and am so glad Zonta brought us together. We have both recently been promoted to grandmas.

Billie Jo Sadler
Zonta Club of Cape Girardeau, USA, District 7

I met Leatta Dahlhoff (right) from the Zonta Club of Olympia in 2011 at a district conference. We hit it off right away!

At the time, I was a member of Zonta Club of Pocatello. We served on the district board for a few years together. We’ve done road trips to Zonta events, conferences, three Zonta conventions and are planning our trip to Brisbane. We share an obsession with shoes and justice. We follow our passions in and out of Zonta. When one of us is having a life challenge we are on the phone supporting each other. I’m so happy Zonta brought us together.

Maggie Calica
Zonta Club of Anchorage, District 8

Tomoko Yasuda (left) was president of the Zonta Club of Kyoto II, Japan, and I was also my club's president in 1998. We met at the Zonta International Paris Convention that year and she asked if our clubs could be 'friends.' Since then, we have met on several occasions, always sharing our clubs' activities.

Although we are across the world from one another geographically, we marvel at the similar challenges women in our two countries face. Tomoko inspires me with her ability to learn to speak and write English so we can better communicate and with her dedication to her club for many decades.

Carole Didier
Zonta Club of Victoria, Canada, District 8

While I have made several friends through my Zonta involvement, my greatest joy has been meeting my best friend, Margaret Melvin (right). We bonded during the first District 8 Conference I attended in Oregon. Our friendship has evolved into being a rock for each other. We do so many things together: Zonta, hike, travel, cry, laugh, break bread, listen and support. I cannot imagine my life without the sister in my heart, Margaret.

Sherrill Lorenzo
Zonta Club of Coos Bay Area, USA, District 8

In Spring 2016, I was on my club’s ballot to be the incoming club president and I was nervous but excited. At the district area workshop, I reconnected with Pat Jarrett (left), who was the incoming club president of Anchorage. We had met at previous district gatherings and had an easy, comfortable relationship growing. Now we had a shared mission — the perfect time to find the synergy that builds longtime relationships — and we did. Anchorage and Olympia are far apart, but our friendship isn’t. When we meet, it’s like we were together the day before. When her name pops up on my phone, my heart is full. And that’s what a Zonta best friend should be. Our friendship is filled with integrity, trust, dependability, loyalty, empathy and listening and most importantly, spending time with her makes me feel good. This life friendship confirms that Zonta is where extraordinary happens!

Paige Porter
Zonta Club of Olympia, USA, District 8

I first met Pat Jarrett (far right) through Zonta, and my life would not be half as good without her. She has helped with critical times in my life like when I had major neck surgery and when my husband was dying. She has helped care for my baby so I can get to medical appointments. She cares for my garden and uses my raspberries and rhubarb to make jelly to raise funds for our club.

Pat has held every club position. She has helped several dying members have the best quality of life, and yet still be involved with our events. She spends no less than 30 hours a week doing all sorts of things for Zonta even when not holding an officer position. She inspires me by being our lead motivator for the Diamond Z club. Pat is part of what makes Zonta a critical part of my life. She is the Florence Nightingale of Alaska Zonta and she touches all Zontians in District 8 and more. She is the one in the pink tutu and I am in the pink (far left). We all celebrate Pat who is so instrumental, and we consider her to be the international Zonta champion.

Sarah Short
Zonta Club of Anchorage, USA, District 8

I would like to nominate my group of Zonta best friends: Kelli Potts (far left), Nicole Miller (left) and Britt Vaughan (far right). Although Nicole is in a different club, we are Zonta best friends.

We text each other almost daily to keep up on our lives and both Zonta and non-Zonta news. And even though Britt is an international director, that doesn't stop Kelli and me in Burbank from forcing her to be on club committees that she does not have enough time in a day for. We love to celebrate each other's successes, support each other's goals, and figure out how to make the world a better place for women and girls. Thanks, Zonta for introducing us so we could become best friends!

Rebecca “Becky” Gimple
Zonta Club of Burbank Area, USA, District 9

I met Lisa Fraser Kimbrough (left) in 2000 when I joined the Zonta Club of Hampton Roads. She had joined the club earlier the same year. We became best friends through Zonta fellowship events, working together on service projects and through our Zonta leadership positions. Both of us combined have served in every possible club position and several district board positions. We co-chaired a district conference and have traveled together often for Zonta, events locally and internationally. We also travel together for pleasure and sometimes we even let our husbands tag along.

Lisa and I have stayed friends through divorce, marriage, illness, career changes, geographical moves and countless other life events. Joining Zonta over two decades ago has brought me many wonderful things. I count my friendship with Lisa as one of the best!

Judy White
Zonta Club of Tallahassee, USA, District 11

I first met Kris (right) in 1988 as neighbors. We became friends and spent almost 20 years doing weekend hikes, children’s soccer games, bridge, volunteer work and many outings. Throughout our friendship, we ran in many marathons and races together. Kris, a Zonta member since 1993, started including me in some informal Zonta meetings and projects, and I joined in 1997. So, we added Zonta meetings and events to our enjoyable time together.

In June 2005, Kris was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was a shock as she had recently retired and was only 56. She died on September 30, 2006, and I was devastated along with all of her many Zonta friends. Shortly after her death, I pulled out all my calendars to look up races and walks and calculated that we had walked 7,080 miles during our friendship. We did a lot of talking, planning and storytelling during those many miles. Kris was devoted to Zonta and our mission and many things I do now are with Kris in mind, and I miss my best friend.

I still remember Kris for her creativity, energy and enthusiasm for life. She packed more into one day than many people do in a week. Whether she was playing bridge or bunko, reading a book, watching the latest film or going to the theater, every day was a reason to celebrate. No occasion or person went unrecognized. Kris made everyone feel special. Of all the gifts she possessed, the one she most often shared was her gift of gab. She would strike up a conversation with any friendly face, especially if they spoke Spanish.

Susie Nulty
Zonta Club of Pikes Peak Area, USA, District 12

My Zonta best friends are (clockwise) Asta Bernatavičienė, Ona Klinavičienė, Daina Zenkevičien, Inga Daukšienė, Regina Pilikonienė and Aušra Skroblienė.

We all first met and became friends through our club. We had not communicated with each other before.

Our friendship means that we support each other and wonder how the other is doing and we meet, talk and sometimes travel together. We care about each other, and, as Zontians, we enjoy the charity work we do together.

Rūta Jasionienė
Zonta Club of Alytus, Lithuania, District 13

The desire to do good deeds led me to the club. Here, united women of various professions create small but important miracles for the benefit of their society and the world. My path with my Zonta best friend, Valda Kvedaraviciene (left), crossed at the club. At first, through our joint work on the board, and later, we expressed confidence and the transfer to the president's helm.

The desire to follow the same path for the sake of a common goal strengthened the bond and our friendship grew from this. It is very important in the circle of Zonta members to find a person close to your soul who will advise you, listen to you and meet for a cup of coffee or tea. After all, it is so important to share a good feeling in your heart and know that together you can do more.

Odeta Petraitienė
Zonta Club of Alytus, Lithuania, District 13

I am honoring the lovely Maria Stefanova (right), my dear friend.

Maria and I met over a dozen years ago when we both became governors for our districts and then moved on to both become international directors. What I truly love about Maria is her genuine personality, kind heart, her zest for life and the unbelievable commitment she has for Zonta. She has enriched my personal and Zonta life in many ways and I will forever cherish her friendship.

My friend, my Zonta sister, my roommate, my pride, my laughter. A solid friendship of over a decade with joy, hard work, great times and an occasional bottle of wine or two. I love you, Sharamara!

Gabriella Samara Paphitis
Zonta Club of Nicosia Region, Cyprus, District 14

My Zonta best friend is is Birgit Farnleitner from Zonta Club Vienna Parkring (left). She is always by my side and supports me in every way. We travel around the world for Zonta and share our room everywhere. Together, we are unbeatable. Birgit, thank you for this great friendship!

Governor Heike Schmidt
Zonta Club of Feldbach, Austria, District 14

My club has had the repeated pleasure of hosting our Zonta best friend, Zarine Khambatta (photo) from the Zonta Club of Bombay III, India, since the early 2000s. When she happens to visit her family in Auckland, she always connects with us.

Although we live in different countries, Zarine is always there to celebrate our club. When we celebrated Zonta International’s Centennial Anniversary, Zarine made sure to send us a gift from her club during our breakfast celebration. She joined us in attending the inauguration of the Macleans College Z Club in 2014. Always interested in young people, she was the guest speaker at one of their meetings in a subsequent visit.

After a break, due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was wonderful to have Zarine visit us again in February and March.

Gay Gallagher
Zonta Club of East Auckland, New Zealand, District 16

Cora (left) and I met 35 years ago at a friend’s party. We both love ballroom dancing as a stress reliever and for relaxation. My friendship with Cora really means a lot. She is the baby sister I always wished to have, and I was the one who invited her to Zonta.

Cora is an empowered woman, and as a sister Zontian, she inspires me as she embodies the kind of woman I so love. She is a God-fearing and like me, we strongly support a society where women and children's rights are respected and are not violated. Together, we support a violence against women-free society!

Rebecca R. Ada
Zonta Club of Tacloban, Philippines, District 17

My Zonta best friend is Aileen Zarate (right). We first became friends as professional ballet dancers with the Philippine Ballet Theatre where I rose to principal ballerina status while she ended up pursuing her master’s degree at Harvard University. We reconnected many years later. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I was part of the club’s board of directors and invited Aileen to be a member of our club. Attending general assembly meetings online was convenient, so Aileen said yes!

Aileen is my best friend because we have many common interests such as ballet, jewelry, modern Filipino fashion and more. Recently, I had the honor of being the godparent of Sofia, Aileen’s daughter for her confirmation. It’s friends like these that keep us going. We build each other up and at the same time make things happen for our club.

Maritoni Tordesillas
Zonta Club of Makati and Environs, Philippines, District 17

My Zonta best friend is Erlinda “Linda” Panlilio (right), who has been a member of the Zonta Club of Makati and Environs for 50 years. We first met in person when we were visiting Zonta clubs in Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia as district board members in 1992. Since then, a very warm and strong bond was forged between us – we are soulmates!

An accomplished writer, painter and collector of antique oriental ceramic, Linda was my greatest advisor and supporter when I served as governor during the 2000-2002 Biennium. I visit Linda in the Philippines regularly throughout the years, except during the COVID-19 travel ban the last three years. Therefore, we were excited to finally be able to meet face-to-face at the district conference in Manila.

Kathleen Yip
Zonta Club of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, District 17

My Zonta best friend is Bridget Mather (left) from the Zonta Club of Adelaide. She encouraged me to join Zonta seven years ago, but we have been friends for 52 years having met in Mackay, North Queensland, when I moved there at the age of 14 and went to the same school as Bridget, where she took me under her wing as the new girl.

We attended university in Townsville together, and even though our lives have taken us to different parts of Australia, we remain best pals to this day and Zonta buddies as well!

Christine Carr
Zonta e-Club of Queensland, Australia, District 22

Annette Hennessy (right) is a very special friend to me because she is down-to-earth, nonjudgmental, provides great advice and is an all-around great person. She is an amazing model for women, and I am proud to call her my friend.

Rose Harris
Zonta Club of Brisbane River Inc, Australia, District 22

These are some of my amazing Zonta friends are Marie Cameron, Nadia Rabiller and Ans VanErp (left to right).

We are all members of the e-club. I have known Ans for many years through board and other roles, who only moved to the e-club one year ago. I love that we all are striving together to build a better world. We are all willing to work together with respect and friendship underlying our relationship. Nadia is a new member who will be a fantastic Zontian and I look forward to getting to know her better.

It's impossible to nominate just one Zonta best friend. We always laugh together and connect as we strive together to build a better world.

Petra Ladwig
Lt. Governor, Zonta e-Club of Queensland, Australia, District 22

Noel Rankin (right) has been my dear friend for 42 years. We first met when the Zonta Club of Bendigo was chartered in 1980 and have been very close ever since. We have shared our joys and sad times. She recently traveled from Bendigo, Victoria, to the Gold Coast, which is about 1,689 km (1,000 miles) away, to visit me in the hospital. Although she is 89-years-old and I am 82-years-old, we hope to continue our loving friendship for many more years.

Dianne Leggo
Zonta e-Club of Queensland, Australia, District 22

Kerstin Liebchen (left) and Jacinto Fromm (right) are my two Zonta best friends whom I have known for about eight years. I met Kerstin when I joined the Zonta Club of Brisbane East after returning from Canada to Australia. Jacinta joined the club shortly afterward. Both women are passionate about helping young women and girls build a better world. They reach out and support the less fortunate in the local community, as well as around the world. I feel very fortunate to be their friend.

Loris Neff
Zonta Club of Wynnum Redland Inc, Australia, District 22

I am so thankful for the opportunity to nominate my Zonta best friend, Jenni Ziesemer. We met through Zonta and traveled to the Hamburg Convention in 2022 together. Jenni inspires me with her willingness to give her time for others, and to learn a new role in Zonta even if she is not sure where to start!

As she has volunteered for many roles in Zonta over the years, she is also a great source of knowledge and information on all things Zonta. I am in my first year as club president. which is also very active and Jenni has been a great help to me with her experience.

Jenni and I had so much fun in Hamburg, she is quick to laugh and never takes herself too seriously. I am very blessed to have met her in the Zonta fellowship!

Charmaine Searle
Zonta Club of Toowoomba Garden City Inc, Australia, District 22

Some 37 years ago, Dawn Newman (right) said to me "Now Fowler, you have done your bit to advance the status of women in management, so I think you should turn your attention to those women who are doing it really tough. Such as victims of domestic violence, and third world women who need assistance to lead a better life".

How could I refuse!

I know of very few who have worked so hard to promote Zonta as Dawn has and still does. She also has a terrific sense of humor - I well remember receiving from her a cardboard OBE - which stood for 'Over Bloody Eighty" - just so you appreciate she also makes our Zonta club a fun club to be a member of.

June Fowler
Zonta Club of Perth Northern Suburbs, Australia, District 23

I first met Karen Foissotte (left) from the Zonta Club of Oahu, USA, last December in Honolulu, Hawaii. We met for cocktails with my sisters, Amy and Charlene, as I was in town to participate in my first Honolulu Marathon and to visit family. I attended her club’s Christmas party, and we had a heartwarming get-together filled with the spirit of sisterhood and dedication to the values upheld by Zonta.

As we continue our individual journeys within the organization, our friendship and shared commitment to Zonta’s mission will continue!

Irene O’Leary
Zonta Club of Perth Northern Suburbs, Australia, District 23

My friendship with fellow Zontian Sherryl Downey began before joining our club. Our friendship began a only a few short years ago when we met on the street in Cosmopolitan Hobart, the southern capital of the southernmost state in Australia. Sherryl and her husband were on their way to a rock-and-roll music gig.

We realized very quickly we shared similar values and our working lives focused on giving to others and maximizing the potential of girls and women. I joined Zonta first and suggested Sherryl might like to join too. She is now treasurer and I am proud of her.

During my recent move of house Sherryl and her husband were staunch supporters lugging furniture and connecting the technology that comes with modern moves. I hope we will always be friends.

Susan Westcott
Zonta Club of Hobart Derwent Inc, Australia, District 23

A true friend is a treasure that is hard to find. I started my Zonta journey about six years ago, but my friendship with Rehana Kamal (left) started two years ago. Nowadays, she is the club president, but our friendship is very close. As secretary of our club, I have to always connect with her.

I thank Rehana for always being there when nobody else was. I love her so much that words can never express the actual depth of my feelings. She is a herald of good fortune for me. Since we met, my life has changed for the better.

Sumana Rahman
Zonta Club of Dhaka IV, Bangladesh, District 25

Our friendship goes back 16 years, and we are always very motivated and ready to contribute to a better world. We love working together in our fundraising group and simply enjoy making things happen together.

Karin Lühmann & Beatrix Bartsch-Hoffmann
(left to right)
Zonta Club of Bielefeld, Germany, District 29

My best friend is Friederike von Müller (right), and we are both the vice presidents of our club. Six years ago, she invited me to meet and see the club, and the rest is history!

Since then, the two of us have been busy with saying yes to Zonta Says NO t-shirt campaigns, twillys and whatever else that help raise awareness on gender-based violence. Our friendship is strong, empowering and made to last.

Jessica Thamm
Zonta Club of Bielefeld, Germany, District 29

30 July 2023