Turkey Dinner History
The Zonta Club of Lincoln was founded in 1957. The club is a member of Zonta International, a leading global organization of professionals empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy. Zonta International has 30,000 members in 67 countries.
In 1965 the eight year old Zonta Club of Lincoln planned a “Zonta Zupper” for the public to be held on Sunday, November 7th, at the Knights of Columbus Hall. The club members served a variety of foods, including turkey. The club charged $1.50 for adults and $1 for children. Approximately 700 people walked up a narrow, enclosed staircase to the second floor of the building that is now Abe’s Carmelcorn. The profit that year was $450.
From this humble beginning has emerged the Zonta Turkey Dinner, held annually on the first Sunday in November. The dinner continued at the K of C until 1970, when it moved to Carroll Catholic School to accommodate larger crowds. That year each club member was responsible for saving five loaves of dried bread, and making two pies and one cake. In 1972 profits rose to over $1100.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s Zonta Club members were innovative in making the best use of the school. They set up tables and chairs in the gym. Food prep started on Wednesday before the dinner. On the day of the dinner food was kept warm in numerous roasters kept in separate classrooms. When the electrical fuses began blowing, Harold Goodman solved the problem by setting up generators in the alley. He then strung extension cords through the gym door and down the hallways to the classrooms. In 1981 over 1000 dinners were served. In 1982 net profits reached $3500.
Many local people have contributed to our club’s successful dinners. In 1991 Comstock Bakery allowed the club to use its facilities for food preparation. In 1992, the day before the dinner, the walk-in freezer at Carroll Catholic School stopped working. Warren Wendlandt at Lincoln College rescued and cooked our turkeys and baked the dressing in his convection ovens.
In 1993 the Zonta Turkey Dinner moved to its current location, Lincoln Community High School. The dinner would not be possible without the assistance of the LCHS cafeteria staff, currently headed by Lori Lawson. They have guided us to streamline ordering, preparation, and serving, to keep down costs and decrease wear and tear on our members. We have averaged more than 1000 dinners served each year while utilizing LCHS.
In 1981 under the leadership of then Zonta Club president, Judy Awe, the club established a Health Career Scholarship. Profits of our turkey dinner and funnel cake sales at the Railsplitter Festival would be used to fund the yearly scholarships. The first year’s scholarship recipient was Dr. Don Sielaff. The scholarship program was begun to assist local students to achieve their goals in health careers. However, over the intervening 35 years, the focus expanded to any post-secondary course of study, including adults returning to school. As of 2016, the Zonta Club of Lincoln has awarded over 100 individual scholarships. A listing of previous scholarship recipients will be displayed at the turkey dinner.
The Zonta Club of Lincoln has contributed to many local organizations over the almost sixty years we have been active in Lincoln. In recent years we have donated to Central Illinois Blood Bank, Girls on the Run, Habitat for Humanity, Head Start, Lincoln/Logan County Food Pantry, and the Pregnancy Resource Center. With the assistance of Charlie Lee at Lincoln IGA, our club has placed a special emphasis on donating to the Logan County Court Advocacy program for local domestic violence victims.
On the first Sunday in November, from 11 AM to 1:30 PM the Zonta Turkey Dinner is held at Lincoln Community High School. The Zonta Club of Lincoln hopes to serve our delicious turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, applesauce, cranberry sauce, and a wide selection of homemade desserts to over 1000 diners again. Contact any member for tickets or call/text our special Turkey Hotline number 217-871-6457. Advance tickets are $12 for adults, $6 per child under 12. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door for $13. The Zonta Club of Lincoln would like to thank our community for supporting our fundraising efforts for the past 50 years and counting!