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14 years of chocolate annual festival feeds Zonta’s mission to empower, educate

14 years of chocolate annual festival feeds Zonta’s mission to empower, educate

Jenelle Buza

For more than 30 years, the Zonta Club of Melbourne has been carrying out its mission to empower women and girls in Brevard County to reach their full potential through service, advocacy and scholarships. And for the past 14 years, they’ve been doing so with the help of chocolate.

The 14th annual Zonta Chocolate Festival will be on Sunday, March 4 this year, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Melbourne Auditorium. It’s a delectable event that is fun for attendees who get to sample the finest local chocolate and vote for Brevard’s Best Chocolate Fix. Chocolatiers, pastry chefs, and restaurateurs from around Brevard compete for this honor.

It’s all in support of the Zonta Club of Melbourne, which in 2004, adopted Zonta International’s mission to end violence against women with particular focus on human trafficking. Since then, the Zonta Club of Melbourne has worked diligently to educate law enforcement, the judiciary, medical professionals, business leaders and the general public about the reality of human trafficking and violence against women in Brevard County and what to do if they suspect an incident of trafficking or abuse.

The Chocolate Festival is one way the nonprofit raises funds to continue its education efforts. Zonta also seeks sponsorships from corporate entities and raises money through two other annual fundraising events: the Will Run for Chocolate, Won’t Stand for Violence 5K Run/Walk in October and the Historic Brevard Christmas tree ornament collection, available for purchase year-round at Meehan’s Office Products and Art Supply in downtown Melbourne and at the Chocolate Festival.

The Zonta Club of Melbourne awards five scholarships annually that are available to all Brevard County women:

  • Young Women in Public Affairs (YWPA) is for high school seniors with an interest in public service.
  • Jane M. Klausman Business Scholarship is for second-year college students with an interest in business.
  • Zonta/Meeham Ignite 360 Scholarships are administered through weVENTURE at Florida Tech to assist Brevard County women with improving their businesses.
  • Zonta/Yellow Dog Café Culinary Scholarship is currently administered through Eastern Florida State College.
  • Zonta/EDC Manufacturing Scholarship is administered through the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast.

In keeping with its mission to empower young girls and women, when Zonta learned that child labor was being utilized to harvest cocoa beans internationally, they immediately moved to require all participants in the Chocolate Festival use slave-free/ethically grown and processed chocolate. So, you can indulge at the festival with peace of mind.

Yellow Dog Café is returning to the 2018 festival looking to retain its title as Brevard’s Best Chocolate Fix champion. In addition to the chocolate competition, the festival will feature local artists, vendors, raffle baskets and more.

Jenelle Buza works with her parents at Brevard Regional Hyperbaric Center. She recently joined the Zonta Club of Melbourne after becoming inspired by the club’s dedication to improving the status of women in Brevard County. Her role with Zonta includes creating marketing materials, website design and assisting with public relations.

What: 2018 Zonta Chocolate Festival

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, March 4

Where: Melbourne Auditorium, 625 E. Hibiscus Ave., Melbourne 32901

Tickets: Available at zontaspacecoast.org. General admission is $25 or $35 “With-a-Kick” (must be over 21), which includes chocolate martinis or wine.

Details and sponsorship info: www.zontaspacecoast.org.

Learn more about Zonta of Melbourne

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