Get Out and Give Back: Dining for Good

by WL Author

Good food, good wine, good friends, great cause – Dining for Women has it all
By Jane Hess Collins

The wonderful women of the Dining for Women chapter in Fairfax Station, VA.

According to MasterCard, last year I spent nearly $2500 on dining out. That’s just over $200 each month. What if I took one week’s cost of dining out and instead had my girlfriends over for dinner and we each donated our dinner cost to charity?

Welcome to Dining for Women (DFW).

Begun in 2002, Dining for Women started out as a group of 20 women who decided to hold a pot luck dinner and donate the money they would have spent in a restaurant to local needy families. The idea spread across the United States and now includes chapters in Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Their location map shows over 200 sites in the United States and I counted 15 in the metro DC area.

The biggest giving circle ever, Dining for Women uses its collective giving to fund international programs that foster good health, education and economic self-sufficiency for women and girls living in extreme poverty. One program is selected each month and 90% of the money collected from each chapter is sent to that organization (the remaining 10% is applied toward DFW’s operating expenses).

DFW‘s website lists the featured nonprofit each month, as well as fact sheets, “food for thought,” indigenous recipes, suggested talking points, recommendations for related shopping, books and films, videos or YouTube links about the organization and a summary of the featured nonprofit’s mission and specific project the collected funds would support.

I attended two DFW events in the last few months. The November theme was India, and having spent a month there in September of 2001, I was especially excited about joining the DFW chapter in Fairfax Station, VA earlier this month.

The dining room table was laden with Indian food, with a tray of chocolate chip cookies thrown in the mix. I brought two bottles of Italian wine (both countries begin with the letter “I”, I reasoned) and found a seat in the crowded living room to join them.

As advertised, this DFW was a house full of 14 BFFs who really didn’t need an excuse to get together each month (DFW requests that each group meet at least four times per year, although most chapters meet monthly). Over wine and plates of naan and some incredible dish made of chicken, rice and beans, they caught up on each other’s lives.

After dinner we watched the DFW YouTube video about the India Literacy Project, an organization bent on 100% literacy throughout India. The collective funds from DFWs across the world will go to the site in the Indian state of state of Orissa to fund scholarships and job skills training.

We wrote out our checks and said our goodbyes.

It really was that easy.

Tracey Dolan, board President of NM and sister of Nurting Minds in Africa founder Pauline Dolan, Lily Munanka, Minister Plenipotentiary, Deputy Chief of Mission and Head of Chancery from the Tanzanian Embassy, and Marion Ballard.

In September I attended a Nurturing Minds (NM) presentation in Bethesda. Nurturing Minds, the nonprofit that DFW supported in August, raises funds and financially supports the Secondary Education for Girls’ Advancement (SEGA) School for Girls in Morogoro, Tanzania. The specific goal of the DFW collective donation was to assist the Sega Girls’ School to develop and manage a poultry farming business, which will one day lead to the girls’ economic independence.

They collected nearly $30,000. Imagine how far that money will go in Tanzania.

In true DFW style, it was all about a gathering of caring friends, this time in the home of Marion and Rick Ballard. We started with a Tanzanian drink of rum and watermelon. I’m not sure if it was actually a native beverage, but after a few slurps I didn’t care. As I mingled and conversed with the other guests, it was like a happy hour at the United Nations. I met fascinating people who lived and worked for years in Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan and Egypt, and some were transiting through the United States for six months or so for some R and R.

Want to join a DFW chapter? Click here. Want to start your own? Click here. You’re only three steps away from empowering women and girls from all over the world by giving them the resources to train in a vocation, increase their education, improve their health and encourage economic independence, all with great food, great wine and your best friends.

What’s not to love?

Jane Hess Collins helps and encourages people to give back through her volunteering, writing, speaking, coaching and workshops. You can follow her other Get Out and Give Back volunteer stories on Facebook, Twitter and her website. If you’d like her to volunteer with your organization, contact her here.

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