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story.lead_photo.caption Sylvia Ferguson, right, looks at the Magnabilities possibilities Tuesday, May 14, 2019, in the expo in the atrium of Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City. Vendor Pauline Kuntz, at left, had one of several booths at the expo that gave way to the annual Zonta Yellow Rose Luncheon where More than 650 people were in attendance to celebrate this year's 15 Women of Achievement nominees. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.
Gallery: Zonta Yellow Rose Luncheon 2019

Be unbreakable. Several women embody that motto, and more than a dozen of them were recognized during Zonta Club of Jefferson City's 20th annual Yellow Rose Luncheon on Tuesday.

Joy Johnson and Chris Chinn received Zonta's Women of Achievement awards for their contributions to the community.

An eighth-grade science teacher at Lewis and Clark Middle School, Johnson was named a Solar System Ambassador for NASA, helping share NASA's latest science and discoveries through community events.

Johnson also developed the Lewis and Clark Trailblazer Pantry in her classroom, where students can find school supplies, hygiene products and other items.

Choking back tears while accepting her award, Johnson quoted Andrea Pennington: "Uncover your dreams and your passions, and share them with the world; your ideas, your voice, but most importantly your presence, because you are a gift to the world."

Serving as director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Chinn launched the MORE strategic vision, which refocused the department to address issues like food insecurity, workforce development, youth in agriculture, consumer awareness, rural broadband connectivity and agriculture business.

Chinn said she was "shocked" and jokingly said she hadn't prepared a speech because she didn't think she would need one. She added it "truly is an honor" to receive the Women in Achievement award and thanked the other women nominated for the award.

"You inspire me to be a better person every day," she told the nominees.

Johnson and Chinn were two of 15 women nominated for the award.

Betty Jo "B.J." DeLong received Zonta's 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award for her role in the community.

DeLong and her husband, F. Joe DeLong Jr., founded DeLong's Steel in 1944 and B.J. DeLong still serves on the board. She is a member of the Cole County Historical Society Board of Directors and the Historic City of Jefferson. She also served as a former president of the Immaculate Conception Home and School Organization, Immaculate Conception Church Circle and St. Mary's Hospital Auxiliary Board.

DeLong has also been instrumental in pushing for riverfront access. Of the $3.7 million an ad hoc committee raised to construct the Bicentennial Bridge to Adrian's Island, DeLong donated $3.2 million.

Local leaders hope to construct an 826-foot bridge to Adrian's Island by 2020. Between the Missouri River and Union Pacific Railroad tracks, Adrian's Island contains 30 acres of forest and wetland that stretches about 1 mile, from the Missouri Capitol to the former Missouri State Penitentiary.

"I always thought as the Capital City, we should have more access to the river than what we already do," DeLong said in a video shown at the luncheon.

Chef Mamata Reddy received Zonta's Celebration Award, which goes to a woman for her contributions to society in general. Reddy currently operates Spoonfoolery, her kitchen classroom and event space in Evanston, Illinois. She offers after-school culinary classes and cooking and baking events for children.

She said she believes Zonta is doing several things to help young women, including offering the Second Chance Scholarships — $2,500 scholarships that help women older than 24 years old attend college.

Dena Geiger, Darci Gerity and Sabrina Robison received Zonta's Second Chance Scholarships for the fall 2018 and spring 2019.

"This is how we will be unbreakable," Reddy said.

Founded in 1919, Zonta International is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Zonta Club of Jefferson City was founded in 1947.

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