When Shirley Purser, Rhondda Figgis Close and Patricia Lawson joined the newly formed Zonta Club covering the Hills in 1979 their aim was to create opportunities for women to achieve their potential.

Forty years on and the trio are still doing that and will be celebrating their club’s milestone at a birthday dinner on Friday, July 26 at Dural.

When she first heard about Zonta and its work with women, Shirley, now 88, was managing a jewellery shop.

“I was really interested because I wanted to help women suffering domestic violence and those who were homeless and needed help.

“I also wanted to give girls a good chance at life through education. I had always wanted to go to university but I had to leave school and 15 and go to work, that’s just the way it was then.”

The first Zonta Club in Sydney was chartered in 1965 and 14 years later it was decided to set up a new club.

Originally called the Zonta Club of Parramatta and Ryde, the club changed its name to the Zonta Club of Sydney Hills in 2001 to better reflect where members were living and working.

While some of the projects have varied over the years, the breast care cushions for breast cancer patients and the support for victims of domestic violence has not changed.

Club members have made 5800 breast care cushions with the help of volunteers, since 2002. They also make Temporary Breast Forms, co-designed by Shirley Purser, for mastectomy patients.

The Club has also supplied 3400 birthing kits to women in Third World countries with help from Senior High School students.

Guest speaker at Zonta’s 40th birthday dinner will be CEO of Women’s Community Shelters, Annabelle Daniel.

CWS has worked with local communities to establish The Sanctuary _ The Hills Women’s Shelter, plus shelters at Hornsby, Penrith, Forster and Bayside.

The next women’s shelter to open will be at Parramatta.

Zonta’s birthday gift will be a $3000 cheque to Annabelle to help with the setup of the Parramatta Women’s Shelter.

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