The Peters Interview
Spinal Column – May 27, 2010
May 26, 2010 - Mary Ann Peters has lofty goals as the new president of
the Zonta Club of Milford, a local chapter of the Zonta International
group. Zonta is comprised of professional women working to improve
women's legal, educational, economic and professional status. Most of
the women Zonta mentors come from a low-income backgrounds or
adverse homelife. In her brief tenure as a local chapter president, Peters
continues to champion a cause that has struck a cord with her
personally, after she has witnessed how women's lives can be forever
changed with assistance. In her role as president, she has developed a
new focus in fund raising — appealing to the business community to act
as sponsors. In addition, she is soliciting more volunteers. "We are
continuing to talk to more professional women interested in joining us
and spending time on a worthy cause," she said. Peters and her family reside in Milford Village.
SCN: What is your local chapter's role in Zonta and your specific role as president?
MP: Zonta has been around here in Milford for 52 years, and through those years we've done
various projects to raise money to help disadvantaged young girls either financially or in adverse
relationships to go back to school and develop a new career path so they can be financially self-
SCN: What are some of its major achievements?
MP: Before I talk about (the local club), I want to add that Zonta is an international organization,
as well. It's in about 60 or 70 countries. We work with UNICEF a lot in building schools for women
in Afghanistan, and hospitals for women that don't have the care like we have here in the United
States. So (we work on projects) not only locally, but internationally.
SCN: As a new chapter president, what changes do you hope to implement?
MP: The one thing I'm really working on is a new development or marketing plan. We have
throughout the years relied almost solely on fund-raising events. We want to get the word out to
the community on what we do and have more of what I call a donor base, or group of women or
people or businesses that support our cause, so that if we as a club don't have enough finances
at a particular time but we know of a woman who definitely needs help to go back to school,
perhaps we can call on some of these donors to say, "Yes, we'd like to support your cause."
From a marketing and developmental standpoint, I'm trying to look at it beyond just the fund-
SCN: How many women locally seek Zonta's support?
MP: Typically we try to support approximately six women a year. Again, it gets back to how much
we can financially do in a given year. We'd like to be able to support 20 a year, but I'd say (we
help) between five and six a year — we donate for their scholarships.
SCN: Give us a glimpse of who these women are, why they stay in their situations and how
they gain the courage to seek help.
MP: Not only women, but young girls recognize abusive situations. We find that even in the high
school environment. We've done workshops where we're trying to instruct young girls so you can
educate them while they're young, so they can recognize an abusive situation and try to develop
their own self-esteem so that they don't get themselves in these longer-term situations that
obviously not only (affect them), but if they have children, their children are affected by it, too.
That's kind of what we see — women who are struggling financially, and not all of them, but a lot
of them are in abusive or dysfunctional situations.
SCN: How closely do you partner with other non-profit groups like HAVEN and Community
MP: We partner with both of those groups. In fact, I'm going to meet with Community Sharing this
week. We hope to do a workshop together to ... instruct women on how to recognize situations
that aren't going to be positive for them. We also instruct them on what they need to do, how they
need to plan if they really want to change their lives, and (instruct them on) some of the crucial
things they need to understand (on) financing in general. So we put on different workshops.
We've worked with HAVEN throughout the years. But in the last year we're focused a lot on
Community Sharing because it's our local community.
SCN: How do you share resources and what will you be doing together in the future?
MP: We haven't had the meeting yet, but hoping for the fall to do a joint workshop.
Right now, and I commend Community Sharing for this. They have established meetings every
two to three months (to bring) all the non-profits together, and they share their stories and where
the needs are in the community. That has helped a lot, to be able to figure out if we have a
situation and it's more than just a scholarship we need to give. We can call another non-profit that
might be connected so they can help some of these women, as well. We're trying to have a lot of
the non-profits start talking to each other so that we more effectively, all of us, are able to benefit
SCN: Explain to our readers about the scholarship program Zonta sponsors.
MP: You can go online and see our application for our scholarship program. We just changed it
this year as far as some of our criteria. For example, typically what we've done in the past is, if it's
for high school graduates, we concentrate more on two-year technical type school vs. the four-
year college. If it's an older woman who is wanting to go back to school, we have them fill out the
application and then we do a pretty intense interview process with them, because we want to
select the women that we think are really serious about going back and making a difference in
their lives. In addition, what we do and what we'll be doing more in the future is have a mentor for
each one of these women we put back into school. So it's not just writing the check and saying,
"Good luck." It's sticking with them through the entire process.
SCN: Is it limited to the Huron Valley School district?
MP: It is right now; however, we are looking at expanding that. For example, let's say that there's
somebody in another community that doesn't have a Zonta club, and there are many of those.
We would then consider helping somebody outside the Huron Valley area.
SCN: What are the requirements for a scholarship and how much can these women expect
MP: The requirements for high school students are somewhat different than if you're an older
woman going back to school, and that's understandable. We want to look at, for the high school
girls, those who have done a lot of community activity, that have maintained a high grade point
average, who have been involved in the community, and of course being in a family situation
struggling financially. That's usually the criteria we use for high schoolers. For the older women,
obviously that varies. We look at the type of situation they are currently in. Again, it goes through
the interview process where we ask questions so that we can get a good feel that they will be
serious about taking this endeavor and not just wanting to try it. With the older women going
back, it's more of a hand-holding process.
SCN: How much can they receive?
MP: It depends. At the high school level, about $900. For women going back after high school
and struggling financially, it depends on what they need. If we really feel they're worthy, we'll try
to go out and we'll try to raise money if we don't have it in our funds at that time. There's no set
SCN: How do you glean donations, and do you have any fund-raisers lined up in the near
MP: We do. We have our psychic night typically during Ladies Night Out in Milford at Hector and
Jimmy's, and that has been successful; however, we want to expand. We also have done
Christmas wreaths for many, many years, but what I hope for is what I mentioned earlier. I would
like to see us not necessarily get away from fund raising, but expand what we do.
SCN: How much do you typically rake in from fund raisers?
MP: It depends — anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 to $4,000.
SCN: Do you get to keep the whole pot or is it divvied between the international
organization and the local chapter?
MP: We do give one-third to the international club.
SCN: What other services do you provide, i.e., legal, psychological, educational help?
MP: Primarily when we provide other types of services, it's through workshops. We will connect
with other organizations who have expertise — either legal expertise, financial aid expertise —
and hold productive workshops and start connecting that way. Typically, unless it's through a
workshop situation, we don't get involved, but again I definitely want to say mentoring makes us
different from those just writing the check. So if we see somebody really struggling and who
needs some legal advice, we have lawyers that are members so we connect them with our
members, and we'll say, "Who do we need to call to help this person?" We have people in
banking, and we have dentists. So we have a large variety within our group that we can connect
with to help.
SCN: When you say you offer legal help, what do you mean exactly?
MP: It's situational. I'll use an example, but it can be one example of many. Let's say there's a
woman who is serious about getting a divorce, but doesn't have the money, and doesn't know
where to start. We would help them find the right legal assistance situation.
SCN: What about continuing financial support?
MP: On financial support, for example, when we interview women to select, we'll (ask if they
have) contacted different organizations or different financial support agencies, because obviously
we can't provide 100 percent funding for most of the scholarships. So those are some of the
questions we'll ask during the interview process.
SCN: Do you think women are reticent to get involved given their circumstances of neglect
MP: I don't think so. We haven't seen that. I'm not saying there aren't situations like that, but
again if we go through HAVEN or Community Sharing, they've already made the decision that
they want to have some change in their lives.
SCN: How can women who seek assistance contact your group, or get involved?
MP: You can go on our website which is www.zonta15.org/Milford, and send us an e-mail. You
have to be a professional woman (to be a member). There's nothing against homemakers, but it's
one of the stipulations of the international organization — you have to be a professional woman.
That doesn't mean you have to be working, because, for example, I'm retired. I'm a retired
executive. We have a lot of retired executive women. You can also call me at 248-229-0729