When Mary Toneff first heard of Dining for Women, during a morning news show's feature on giving circles, she knew right away it was a charitable-group model she wanted to pursue.
“Its programs emphasize projects and issues related to women and children,” Ms. Toneff said. “There's a lot of grass-roots involvement. And there is such an emphasis on education. I come away learning more about a region of the world and the people — it's not just writing checks.”
Now, nearly five years later, the Toledo area has three Dining for Women chapters, with the newer two having roots in the one that Mrs. Toneff and three friends founded in Sylvania in 2006.
Said Kathy Keller of Perrysburg: “It's about helping out bigger than myself, bigger than my community.”
She learned about Dining for Women through a friend who is an employee of the Toledo Public Schools and was inspired to start a chapter in her own community.
The friend probably knew Kim Whetstone, a Timberstone Junior High teacher who was one of the four charter members of Dining for Women in Sylvania. Ms. Whetstone recently started a second Sylvania chapter, which has a membership that mainly is other teachers.
About 40 members of the three chapters gathered recently at Ms. Whetstone's home for a joint dinner to raise money for Bead for Life, a charity that benefits impoverished women and children in Uganda by selling bead jewelry the Ugandan women make.
Normally, the chapters gather separately for monthly potluck dinners at members' homes. The premise of Dining for Women is that its members cook for each other and eat together, and they collect the money they might have spent on a group restaurant meal and donate it for charitable purposes.
Each month, the charitable target is different, with each one selected by Dining for Women's national office.
In September, the beneficiary was the Somaly Mam Foundation, which combats human trafficking and sexual slavery worldwide.
“Nationally, we're raising about $20,000 per month for particular projects by each charity,” Ms. Toneff said.
She said the Bead for Life meeting was a joint gathering because it simplified handling of the jewelry.
And as a result of Dining for Women members wearing their Ugandan beads to church, a Bead for Life sale has been scheduled for three days this fall at the Sylvania United Church of Christ, 7240 Erie St.
The sale is to be Oct. 31 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Nov. 2 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Nov. 7 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Ms. Toneff said that from its original four members, her Dining for Women chapter has grown to nearly two dozen, which is a little big for monthly dinners in homes.
Nonetheless, the meetings are open to guests who want to learn more about the program and perhaps start chapters.
“We're looking to offshoot other chapters,” she said. “It gets a little packed at our meetings now.”
Ms. Keller said she sought out “a group of eclectic women in Perrysburg,” and from an initial list of six who met for the first time in February her chapter is up to a dozen.
“You want it to be the right size to fit in a home and for people to miss you when you're not there,” she said.
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