Shop till it stops: fighting domestic violence with shopping

By: Elizabeth Scussel | Farmington Press | Published March 19, 2013

The arrival of spring brings more than flowers and warmer weather — it’s a time for renewal, rebirth and, for some people, the need for a new wardrobe. Zonta International is making it fun and easy to update the closet this spring without breaking the bank.  And it’s all for a good cause.

On March 24, the 19th annual Steppin’ Out in Style event will be held 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Carson’s (formerly Parisian) at Laurel Park Place in Livonia. Tickets to the event are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

“There will be something for everyone. The event includes private shopping with a 25 percent discount, sampling of foods from local restaurants, live entertainment, a runway fashion show and a raffle with a grand prize of $500 cash,” said Judy Lombardo.

A Farmington resident, Lombardo is the president of the Zonta Club of Farmington/Novi. Zonta International is an organization of professional women dedicated to enhancing the status of women worldwide through service and advocacy. A retired labor relations manager, Lombardo has been a Zonta member for 19 years.

“The word Zonta is derived from an Indian word meaning honest and trustworthy. There is currently Zonta Clubs in 63 countries worldwide, with 41 clubs in Michigan and Ontario. Zonta has 30,000 members, with 14 in our club,” Lombardo said. “Our club is small but mighty.”

Steppin’ Out in Style is the club’s major yearly fundraising event, and it averages about 500 guests each year. Proceeds benefit First Step, an organization that provides services to individuals affected by domestic and sexual violence. Their goal is the prevention of domestic and sexual violence through education, advocacy and appropriate intervention. Since the event’s inception nearly 20 years ago, Zonta has donated almost half a million dollars to First Step.

Zonta International is involved in the Liberian fistula project and Rwanda’s elimination of pediatric HIV.

“Also, there are several Zonta International Services to combat violence against women, with combined funding of over $1 million for Safe Cities for Women in Honduras, empowering women in rural Samoa to combat violence, and a project in 12 Asian and African countries, which uses edutainment to transform the myth that violence against women is ‘normal’ and ‘inevitable,’” she said. “Scholarships are also provided at district and international levels for young women in public affairs, women in business and an Amelia Earhart Scholarship — she was a Zontian — to women in science and aerospace studies.”

Last July, Lombardo had the privilege of experiencing these international projects firsthand when she attended the Zonta International Conference in Torino, Italy.

“I had never been out of the country. I got a passport, and off I went,” she said. “What a wonderful experience. I met women from all over the world and shared lots of stories and learned a lot about other cultures. As a delegate, I participated in the business sessions and voting for upcoming international officers and projects.”

Tricia Stieber, of Farmington Hills, is the vice president of the Zonta Club of Farmington/Novi and has been a member since 2007. Stieber is an assistant branch manager at a local bank, and a mother.

“I have two daughters who are in their 20s,” Stieber said. “One is a civil engineer and the other is a teacher. Our family has been very fortunate, as we have a strong and loving extended family. Unfortunately, I know this is not the case for many women and their families.

“By supporting First Step, I hope that anyone who may find themselves in an abusive relationship or is a victim of sexual assault will find the help they need at First Step and be able to move forward with their lives,” she said. “Additionally, we need to educate everyone about domestic violence and sexual assault.”

Another project the club is involved with is making and distributing mastectomy pillows to provide comfort to women who have undergone breast cancer surgery. The pillows are funded and created by Zonta members and are distributed to several local hospitals, as well as individually.

“The situations where we see the recipients of our efforts, and seeing the results, have been the most rewarding thing for me,” Lombardo said. “For instance, we host a Halloween party for the residents at First Step, and the children have a wonderful time. Their smiles are our reward. We receive thank-you notes from the recipients of the breast cancer pillows, and reading notes that detail the comfort provided by these pillows inspire us to continue this project.”

“It’s such a great feeling to volunteer and give back to an organization that you believe in and provides such a valuable service to our community,” said Stieber.

For more information on the Steppin’ Out in Style fundraiser, call (248) 496-9841 or visit For more information on First Step, visit