Supporting women

Connie Dillon, left, president of Billings' chapter of the Billings Chapter of Zonta International, along with Erin Lambert, director of the Billings YWCA Gateway House and Renee Coppock and Beverly Ross, both of Zonta, sort through items donated to the Gateway House. For the next 16 days, Zonta is working to raise awareness of violence against women through the donation drive and an art exhibit at Billings Clinic. 

The campaign is simple. Zonta Says No. 

The club is working this month to raise awareness in its push to end violence against women. Members of the Zonta Club of Billings donated goods to the YWCA's Gateway House and have put together an art show at Billings Clinic for the next two weeks with works of art created by survivors of domestic abuse. 

"We try to empower women," said Connie Dillon, the Billings club president. 

On Monday afternoon, the women from Zonta were at the YWCA's Gateway House with donated goods — everything from packages of soap to clothing to board games — that will go to women and children staying at the facility.  

The Gateway House is a shelter operated by the Billings YWCA open to women and children who are removing themselves from abusive environments. 

"The women and children that we serve are fleeing when they come here and come to us most times with absolutely nothing," said Erin Lambert, director of the Gateway House.

The donated items help the shelter provide basic care to the women and children who end up there. 

At Billings Clinic, the artwork on display was created through a class taken by survivors of abuse. The show also includes a display of empty shoes, representing women killed by domestic violence. 

The survivors were encouraged to take the art classes even though many did not think of themselves as artists, Dillon said. The idea being, when the participants tell themselves they're artists, they begin to act like artists. 

The class uses that technique to teach the women that when they tell themselves they're not victims they will begin to act as though they are not victims. 

Zonta will provide at the art show statistics on domestic violence, information on area services and medical help available to victims of domestic violence. 

And in the meantime, its partnership with the Gateway House will continue. Through grant funding, the club has been able to provide all kinds of service through the years. 

"The (YWCA), through all its programs, is a really good match" with Zonta, said Renee Coppock, a Zonta member. 

The club attracts business professionals with the stated goal to help "the advancement of women through education, economic stability, legal and legislative equality, health and wellness, both locally and worldwide."

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Business Reporter

Business Reporter for the Billings Gazette.