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Zonta honors Yellow Rose recipients

Sat, Mar 16th 2024 07:00 am

Compiled by Zonta Club of Grand Island

The Zonta Club of Grand Island has selected four outstanding women to receive the 2024 Yellow Rose award for leadership and service to the community. The club is honoring women whose talent, dedication, determination, and caring hearts have made a difference in the lives of others and inspired a new generation to achieve to their greatest potential.

The 2024 recipients are Lynn Alessi, Jennifer Benz, Susan Berger and Rhonda Diehl.

Zonta is an international service organization whose members work to build a better world for women and girls. For Zonta women worldwide, March 8 is not only International Women’s Day; it is also Zonta Yellow Rose Day. On this day, women’s achievements are celebrated in countries all over the world, while also acknowledging women’s ongoing quest for gender equality. In many countries, this day is also a national holiday.

March 8 was designated Yellow Rose Day by Zonta International in 1999 to celebrate women’s achievements through the beauty of presenting a single yellow rose.

The Grand Islanders receiving this year's Zonta Yellow Rose award come from various professions, including restaurant ownership, business ownership and government.

Zonta Club representatives Heidi Travagline, Sonja Miller and Betty Harris offer yellow roses to Lynn Alessi, former owner of the Town Café and Avon representative; and Susan Berger, owner of Flower A Day. (Photo by Alice Gerard)

Zonta Club representatives Sonja Miller and Betty Harris offer yellow roses to Jennifer Benz, co-owner of Dick and Jenny’s; and Rhonda Diehl, assistant to the Grand Island town supervisor. (Photo by Alice Gerard)


•Lynn Alessi (Quarantello), former business owner and Avon representative

Lynn has been a proud resident of Grand Island since 1982. She completed her bachelor's degree in criminal justice after just three years. She and her family-owned businesses for over 60 years that included Lenardo's Restaurant, Main Street Ice Cream, and LuLu's Hamburger. In August 2002, they purchased Holiday Showcase, rebranded it Town Café, and ran it until November 2018. Lynn also worked for Blue Cross and Blue Shield for 12 years and has sold Avon products since May 2001.

She believes in giving back to the community. She is a lifelong Girl Scout, proud mother of two, and a Moose member since 2014. Lynn has donated all of her profits from Avon to basket auctions and organizations. Each year for 16 years at Town Café, she gave over 100 bags to customers, staff, therapists, aides, bus drivers, teachers, nurses, and even custodial staff. This year, they gave out 32 bags to the staff at Elmwood day hab. During COVID, she and her son delivered a quart of Town Cafe sauce and a pound of spaghetti to over 250 households.

•Jennifer Benz, manager and co-owner

Jennifer went to Grand Island schools through eighth grade; then to Nardin Academy; and she holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame. She is the Jenny of Dick & Jenny’s, having owned the restaurant on Grand Island for 16 years. The highlight of her career is the longevity of her restaurants! Dick & Jenny’s in New Orleans from 1999-2019, and Dick & Jenny’s on Grand Island since 2008. Given the challenges of hurricanes, pandemics, recessions, and the intrinsic low success rate of restaurants, she is very proud that they have managed to thrive.

"People are both the biggest joy and challenge,” she said. “Building a crew that works as a family and team to serve a community is both the most challenging and most rewarding part of running a restaurant."

Jennifer's personal mission statement is, "To provide joyous dining experiences for the community while enriching the skills, opportunities, and lives of the crew we work with."

•Susan Berger, business owner

Susan is a longtime resident of Grand Island, and she holds a bachelor's degree in business from SUNY at Buffalo. Sue has owned Flower A Day for 22 years. Sue has been highly involved in the Grand Island community, working with the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce; as Business of the Year in 2014; a past member of Zonta; past president of Buffalo Launch Club Mates; and the past president of BLC Mates Bowling.

Her joys include providing flowers for family celebrations such as weddings, welcoming new babies, and birthdays. The challenges are providing sympathy flowers: "It’s the last gift to given to the deceased and to create an arrangement to reflect that,” Susan said.

Her personal mission statement is, "To provide great customer service and a quality product."

•Rhonda Diehl, assistant to the town supervisor of Grand Island

Rhonda has held this position since Jan. 1, 2020. She attended East Carolina University and UNC Pembroke with a focus on business management. She has worked in several industries, including restaurants, retail business, and hotel management, which is what brought her to Buffalo. She has called Grand Island home for 26 years.

She worked from a home office for her husband's business in order to stay home with their daughters. Rhonda started serving in the public sector in 2020 and has had the opportunity to fill voids and improve functionality both internally and for residents.

Rhonda finds working with the Long-Range Planning Committee, now the Comprehensive Plan Review Board, very rewarding. It has taught her so much about planning and the details involved in ensuring positive community growth, and allowed her to make contributions toward the future of Grand Island. Her greatest joy in this position has been meeting so many residents and working alongside other departments within the town. She has especially enjoyed being involved with the volunteers who give their time and talents to the town’s advisory boards. She finds the greatest challenge in this position, as in life, is realizing you can never make everyone happy.

Her personal mission statement is, "To be a light and encouragement to all that are put in my path. I not only want to leave a mark on the world, but I would like to think that I have made or will make it a better place."

Join us! The Zonta Club of Grand Island is currently holding a membership drive. For more information, contact Sonja Miller at [email protected]. The club’s websites are www.facebook.com/zontaclubofgrandisland and zontagrandisland.org; and the mailing address is PO Box 1104, Grand Island, NY 14072. Find Zonta International at https://www.zonta.org.

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