Bits 'n' Pieces: Women feast while fundraising

By Stover E. Harger III, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 

Whether it's food or charity, Katlin Smith knows that with teamwork, a little can go a long way.

Since 2011, the founder of the Vancouver's Dining for Women has been leading a group of philanthropic women, and some men, who meet once a month for potluck meals and to raise money to fund grants for overseas charities that help improve the lives of women and their families, whether it's through education or health care.

Smith learned about the group from a newspaper article and, after bringing some friends with her to a few meetings in Portland, she decided to create a chapter on this side of the river.

"I thought we need this in Vancouver," said Smith, who works in public relations with her UrbanWords Group firm.

They meet at 6 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Vancouver, 4505 E. 18th St. On Tuesday, they'll get together to raise money for the Bond Street Theatre, which uses live theatrical performances to address important topics.

The first Vancouver gathering in January 2011 almost didn't happen because of icy winter weather. But Smith was pleasantly surprised to learn it would take much more than slick roads to keep people away. The group's members, just like Smith, have not only a hunger for tasty home-cooked food, but for altruism.

"We still had 50 come out for the first meeting, and the second meeting we had 62," she said.

Smith said the Vancouver group is larger than many in the organization.

"We are kind of Dining for Women on steroids," she said. "I think we have great potential for growth. As we get the word out, we get more and more people coming."

Many in the Vancouver group have traveled to faraway locations, such as Vietnam, Peru and India to visit projects they've helped fund. Next year, Smith said a member is planning to travel with the national organization to Myanmar.

Dining for Women began in 2003 when Marsha Wallace, a former nurse from South Carolina, decided that in lieu of gifts at her birthday party she would ask guests to donate to Women for Women International, which provides resources to help women survivors of war and other conflicts. From there the idea grew and chapters began popping up across the country.

In the 11 years since the nonprofit was born, Dining for Women chapters have raised more than $3.25 million, according to its website. Locally, the Vancouver chapter has brought in more than $43,000.

Dining for Women reports that 85 percent of the money it raises goes to the charity and the rest to keep the organization running. The average donation from members at each of the potluck meetings is $35, and with 427 chapters, the money adds up quickly.

"A small amount of money makes a huge difference," Smith said.


Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.