BY SOPHIA DU BRUL
The summer of 2012, Brad and I took a very memorable cruise through the Baltic. Copenhagen was delightful, Gdansk was a charming surprise, and St. Petersburg was beautiful, interesting, and informative. (Putin really is tiny. We saw him at the Hermitage. As my grandfather quipped, Putin could run under a table waving a flag!) But one of my biggest takeaways was learning about Dining For Women.
It was one of those nights where the maître d’ asked if we would like to sit at a group table or wait for a table for two. Why not? Let’s take the group table. There was a lovely couple from Jackson, Mississippi, who said there was no reason to ever go to Jackson, and a vivacious pair of sisters who were very involved in Dining For Women and eager to talk it up. Many years ago, I used to work for a group called Altrusa International, so I was curious about Dining For Women since these ladies mentioned one of the causes that DFW supported was a hospital in Addis Ababa that Altrusa used to give funds to, but I quickly learned that Dining For Women was nothing like Altrusa.
The idea is pretty simple: Dining For Women is a giving circle, and every month, different groups of women get together, share a meal, learn about an organization that helps women in need, and then donate the cost of a dinner out. The donations are collected and then sent off to fulfill that month’s grant. There are no minimum donations: if one is feeling constrained and a “night out” means a coffee at Starbucks, that is okay.
There are no committees, galas, or silent auctions to plan—it’s just dinner with friends and learning about a cause. It’s kind of like a book club without the book, but the numbers are impressive. Founded in 2003, now over 400 Dining For Women chapters span the United States, raising over $6 million every year for their core mission of helping women in poverty. DFW runs a lean operation with 90 cents out of every dollar going to charity.
I left this cruise loving the idea of Dining For Women and even asked for information to start a chapter in 2012, but life got in the way. In 2017, my father died; that was a rough year. I realized that I had fallen into a bit of a funk, but I did not know quite how to get out of it until I went to a dinner to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Miss Porter’s School. Sitting at this lovely dinner, surrounded by other women united in a common cause, was what I needed. I reached out again to Dining For Women, and this time I followed through.
The Wilmette chapter of Dining For Women has been meeting every month for a year. We have helped refugee women in Uganda learn vertical gardening techniques to help feed their families and have extra produce to sell, girls in Tanzania now have access to monthly sanitary supplies so they can stay in school, and we helped sponsor a school inside a prison in El Salvador where children are imprisoned with their mothers, just to name three. At our first anniversary dinner, we ate chicken curry and supported Her Future Coalition, which rescues girls and women who have been sex trafficked in Calcutta and provides them with job training and a safe place to live. We are “changing the world one woman, one girl one dinner at a time.” Over the past year, our little dinners have raised over $4,000 for a dozen amazing charities and forged and strengthened many friendships.
Dining For Women got me out of my funk, and I look forward to our dinner every month: we learn about a new place in the world, reaffirm how lucky we are to live where we do, are happy that we are able to do our small part to help other women in the world, and are grateful that we are here for each other.
If you are interested in learning more about Dining For Women, please check them out at diningforwomen.org or please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our next dinner is on Monday, April 15—the more the merrier. I think that they are the most amazing group, supporting truly amazing projects.
Sophia du Brul, ISA owns Sophia’s Room and does estate sales and appraisals. Over Memorial Day Weekend, she has an amazing sale coming up at Gulliver’s Pizza in Rogers Park where she will be liquidating the interior of its incredible collection of Victorian and Art Nouveau light fixtures, garden statues, architectural pieces, and sculpture. Visit sophiadubrul.com for developing details.