Last Thursday, Dining for Women’s Santa Barbara Chapters 1 and 2 came together for their monthly meeting. This was the first time both chapters held a meeting as a combined group.

Dining for Women is a nonprofit national giving circle with more than 400 registered chapters and 9,200 members. The brainchild of Marsha Wallace of Greenville, S.C., Dining for Women empowers women living in extreme poverty by funding international programs fostering good health, education and economic self-sufficiency and cultivates educational dinner circles inspiring individuals to make a profound difference through the power of collective giving.

Chapter members meet for dinner in someone’s home rather than at a restaurant, and donate the money they would have spent dining out to international programs.


“In the fall of 2002, I read an article about a group of friends who were social workers,” Wallace said. “They got together for potluck dinners and made donations to needy families using the money that they would have spent in restaurants. I was struck by the idea of using dining out dollars to help others and with that, the idea for Dining for Women was born.

“The organization’s goal is to establish Dining for Women chapters all over the globe, harnessing the power of collective giving to change the world one dinner at a time.”

The first Dining for Women meeting was held Jan. 20, 2003, at Wallace’s home in Greenville, SC. Twenty women attending donated $750. Since then, more than $2.8 million has reached numerous international organizations.

Peggy Welik, the chapter leader for the Santa Barbara Chapter 1, started her chapter in August 2011. She had attended several DFW dinners held in her hometown  in the Bay Area. When she moved to Santa Barbara and discovered there were no chapters here for her to join, she knew starting her own chapter and bringing DFW to Santa Barbara was what she wanted to do.

Melissa Hansen, the chapter leader for the Santa Barbara Chapter 2, started her chapter in January. She saw a “Making a Difference” segment on the Nightly News with Brian Williams in which Dining for Women was featured and felt compelled to start her own chapter in Santa Barbara.

Dining for Women is dedicated to empowering women living in the developing world to become healthy and economically self-sufficient. We believe that through education, our members become agents of change, working together to alter the face of world poverty. The power of collective giving allows each of us to make a more substantial difference in the world than we could do individually, changing the lives of women in some of the poorest countries. 

For information or to start your own DFW chapter, visit the Dining for Women website by clicking here and complete a chapter application form.

— Melissa Hansen is the chapter leader for Dining for Women-Santa Barbara Chapter 1.