Women for Women Via the Dinner Table 

If you dine out as often as Food News, you spend some serious coin in the local restaurant economy. Think about how much one of those restaurant meals has cost you. Then, set that amount aside, whip up your favorite dish at home, take it to a friend's house to share and donate that saved cash to an organization benefitting women in impoverished nations all over the globe.

That's the idea behind Dining for Women, a national organization that brings first-world women together to break bread and raise dollars for programs focusing on health, education and financial success for women in the developing world. The first chapter launched in 2003 in South Carolina and in June 2009, Debi McNeil established Boise's first chapter. Every month, an ever-expanding group of Boise women get together for a potluck-style dinner, hosted by one of the group's members, and pass the collection plate for donations. Don't let that metaphor sour you, though, Dining for Women is not affiliated with any religious or political agenda.

In the six months since McNeil first convened the Boise group, the chapter has doubled in size, from 14 women the first meeting to 27 in January, and has raised nearly $3,000 from individual donations ranging from $5 to $100. Every penny collected by the Boise chapter is turned over to the national coffers, which writes a check to a designated cause every month. In January, Dining for Women's goal was to raise $15,000 for Darfur Women's Center and McNeil's group brought in $786 toward that goal.

Despite the growing success of the Boise chapter, McNeil has bigger ideas.

"It's becoming more than just a giving circle," she explains. "We're getting more involved." Raising awareness of women's issues globally is a focus of the group on a national level and locally, McNeil says she'd like to start involving women from Boise's refugee community, who often--were it not for their relocation to Boise--could have been the very women Dining for Women strives to reach in countries like Darfur, Kenya, Afghanistan.

As Boise's single chapter of Dining for Women grows, McNeil acknowledges that accommodating 30 people for dinner is no easy task. She anticipates that soon, the group will split in two, offering two nights a month for dinner and a more intimate experience at each.

Want in? Visit diningforwomen.org for more information and then contact McNeil at dmcneil31@gmail.com or 208-890-5388.

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