By Claire Harlin
What started as an idea over dinner at the South Carolina home of Marsha Wallace in 2003, has turned into a global initiative with more than 250 chapters across the nation.
The idea is simple: members of Dining for Women chapters meet periodically to enjoy a potluck meal together, and they donate the amount of money they would have paid at a restaurant to the group’s featured program for that month.
Solana Beach resident Debbie Hirsch attended a meeting with a friend in San Jose, and thought the concept was so great that she pitched it to some friends and began a Solana Beach chapter. The Solana Beach Dining for Women meetings always takes place over brunch, from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, at the Park Del Mar Clubhouse, located at 645 E. Solana Cir, Solana Beach, 92075. The next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 6.
Hirsch said she works for a university in Santa Clara that’s committed to social justice, so starting the local chapter was right up her alley. She also said she has a personal commitment to helping empower women and children living in extreme poverty.
That’s exactly what Dining for Women’s programs do. This month’s featured program, “Health In Harmony,” gives Indonesian women the opportunity to purchase two goats, and repayment is the first kid goat and two bags of manure to be used in organic farms. The program doesn’t just give, but it fosters economic sufficiency. Other programs may foster health or education, but have one common denominator — they are designed to empower.
“The concept here is helping women help women,” said Hirsch.
At the brunch meetings, the group receives status reports on prior donations so they can track how their money is being put to use. There is also a lot of social time and in-depth discussion on the featured program. Hirsch said many times one of the women has lived in or traveled to the countries of the featured programs, and are able to share their insight with the rest of the group to provide a broader, personal perspective.
“One of the great things about the group is meeting these well-traveled, educated, remarkable women,” Hirsch said.
According the group’s national website, www.diningforwomen.org, the group has more than 8,000 members, and hundreds of thousands of women from more than 30 countries have benefitted from the organization’s donations. The group, so far, has raised more than $1.5 million.
Solana Beach’s Dining for Women always welcomes new members, and those interested can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.