Two Manlius women begin Dining for Women local chapter

About 25 women gathered at the home of Marlene McFarlene's May 17 for a meal comprised of flavorful Mexican dishes.

The evening's food theme tied in with a Mexico-based charity, Mujeres Aliadas, which provides health and educational services to poor women and adolescent girls. The group learned more about the grass-roots program through a short video they played after dinner.

McFarlene is a member of the Fayetteville-Manlius chapter of Dining for Women, a national nonprofit organization described as a dinner-giving circle that provides funding to international programs for women and girls. The donations collected that night would be used to support a rural midwife project.

It's taken just six months for this local group to gain more than 50 members. Co-leaders Eileen Perry and Debbie Monaco established the first meeting in January, and as each month passes, the F-M club continues to gain more interest among individuals who learn of its mission - typically through friends already involved.

"We've had between 10 and 25 people at each of the monthly dinners so far," Monaco said, though the club's email list includes up to 60 addresses. "The initial invitation email for the first dinner in January went to women Eileen and I knew, and who we thought might be interested. We are looking to find more interested women, and people can invite friends to come to a dinner or just be on the email list."

Members meet for potluck dinners once a month either at someone's home or at a rented hall. The informal evening is an opportunity to socialize and become educated on that month's charity, which the national organization introduces through a short, informative video and website referral. Members can then decide if and how much they would like to donate. Contributions are voluntary and no designated amount is expected of the members. Checks are made out to Dining for Women and are mailed directly to the home office in Greenville, S.C. The club then follows up with how the money was spent and how the members have helped. According to its website, DFW gives to international programs for women and girls only because 75 percent of the world's 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty are women and children who live in developing nations. DFW believes it makes sense that if it is to change the level of poverty worldwide, it will do it through the empowerment of these women. Additionally, 85 percent of money Americans donate to charity stays in the United States. Of the 15 percent that is donated internationally, private foundations rather than individuals give the majority of funds donated.

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