It is a celebration of courage, of resilience, of community and of hope.
It is a celebration of women of achievement and those who have earned a lifetime full of accolades that truly inspire fellow women.
It is a celebration to support, honor and award women looking to gain a second chance at their education and pursue their dream careers.
It is the annual Yellow Rose Luncheon, and founder and host Zonta Jefferson City will celebrate the event’s 20th year doing exactly what the organization’s mission states: to promote and uplift women.
More than 800 guests will attend this year’s event May 14 at Capitol Plaza Hotel, and the 2019 theme is one that signifies Zonta and the women it recognizes and supports: The Unbreakable Woman.
When 2019 Yellow Rose Luncheon Chair Erin Wiseman thought about who the celebration speaker would be, her mind went to Mamata Reddy. Hailing from southeast Missouri, Reddy started her career in journalism, earning bachelor’s degrees in magazine journalism and philosophy from University of Missouri-Columbia and a master’s degree in media communications from Webster University, according to her LinkedIn website. She worked for several years in the journalism field, but also pursued culinary arts. Reddy was an after-school culinary instructor at the Gary Comer Youth Center on Chicago’s South Side for several years and also graduated from The French Pastry School. Pastry Chef Reddy recently opened Spoonfoolery: Creative Cooking & Baking, a kitchen classroom and event space for young cooks in Evanston, Illinois.
“She has pulled on all her past experiences for her business. What I think is so interesting about her is she truly is the embodiment of an unbreakable woman,” said Wiseman, an attorney with Brydon, Swearengen & England and member of Zonta Jefferson City for about 10 years. “Now she has two young children and is able to pursue her dream and open this business that has been so successful.”
That same unbreakable personality resonates with the Yellow Rose Luncheon’s long list of honorees during the last 19 years. From teachers, legislators and entrepreneurs to volunteers, writers and charitable organization leaders, each and every one of the celebration speakers, 16 lifetime achievement award recipients, nearly 80 Second Chance Scholars, more than 35 Women of Achievement winners and 150-plus nominees also embody “the unbreakable woman.” And so did those courageous Zonta Jefferson City members who established the Second Chance Scholarship program and the Yellow Rose Luncheon that supports it.
“Celebrating the unbreakable woman makes sense. Twenty years we have done this, we have persevered. There were people that thought it wouldn’t last that long or wouldn’t be popular enough to continue on,” Wiseman said. “We have so many women in our organization who are pioneers in their field, in their organizations. … I got sentimental and thinking about what all these women have done. They are all unbreakable and I’m here because of them.”
The idea of having a Woman of Achievement event was presented at the membership meeting on Sept. 21,1999. The Zonta Board approved the idea at the October meeting and Cyndy Schnieders and Linda Warden acted as chairs, said Ruthi Sturdevant, longtime Zonta Jefferson City member and past Women of Achievement nominee. Within a couple months a steering committee and subcommittees were formed and proceeds were assigned to fund a second chance scholarship program for women.
Nominations were solicited, with 29 women initially nominated by the end of February 2000. By March, $8,875 had been pledged in cash sponsorships and an additional $5,000 in-kind sponsorships were pledged. Five hundred and 20 attendees came out to the first Yellow Rose Luncheon on May 16, 2000, and more than $10,000 was raised in cash, Sturdevant said.
The money raised from the Yellow Rose Luncheon funds the handful of women age 24 or older who are selected each year to receive a Second Chance Scholarship.
Earning up to $2,500 each semester for a year, the women may need the full amount or enough to finish a few credits and finalize their education.
“We have given scholarships to women who have survived genocide, who have escaped civil war, lost their entire family or had sick relatives. It has been the unfortunate circumstances for some of these ladies, and others it wasn’t like this. They really just needed a second chance,” Wiseman said, noting this year there are three Second Chance Scholars.
After guests are able to browse through a variety of exhibitors in the hotel’s atrium an hour prior to the luncheon’s start at 11:30 a.m., ladies walk into the ballroom adorned with hundreds of yellow roses symbolizing friendship from River City Florist and enjoy hearing from the celebration speaker and learning about the Mrs. William H. Weldon Lifetime Achievement Award winner and Second Chance Scholars. Then each Women of Achievement nominee is highlighted before the winners are announced after selected from an unbiased sister Zonta International chapter.
“What’s so great about this program is these women don’t think that they are deserving. I get to stand up there and say how wonderful they are and talk about all of their achievements. They are the most humble women, because they are so humble,” Wiseman said.
“Nobody knows and it is a total surprise. … I wish we could make everyone a winner; they are all so deserving.”
“It is amazing how this community comes together because they care so much about furthering women and the lives of women,” Wiseman later added. “Once you impact one woman, you are impacting her whole family, your impacting her kids, your impacting her parents. She is supporting more than just her.”
Attendees can now order tickets online through SplashThat, which allows them to pick their seat or full table by specific honorees. Wiseman said there is no extra fee for this feature, and a map of all tables and where nominees and honorees are sitting is at Zonta Jefferson City’s website. To order tickets, visit https://zontayellowroseluncheon.splashthat.com. For more information about the 2019 Yellow Rose Luncheon, visit zontajcmo.org.
To help commemorate Zonta Jefferson City’s 20th annual Yellow Rose Luncheon, HER Magazine revisits one of its first and more recent Women of Achievement recipients, follows up with three past Second Chance Scholars and recognizes many of the women honored at this event.
The following are this year’s Women of Achievement nominees:
Dr. Jennifer Su, MD