From A Simple Meal to Changing the World: 15 Years Later

It all started around the dinner table. In 2003, Dining for Women Co-Founder Marsha Wallace celebrated her birthday with a simple fundraising dinner with friends. That meal would lead to DFW and its first chapter – SC, Greenville-1 – which recently celebrated its 15th anniversary.

“After  15 years of inviting DFW into our Greenville homes, we celebrate the power of an individual to shape the lives of others,” said Co-Founder Barb Collins. “Our fervent belief that investing in the futures of women and girls transforms the world is proving that collective giving is a powerful force for change.”

Through the years, the Greenville-1 chapter has thrived through a succession of leaders and through the ebb and flow of members, which now number about 135 active members and about 20 in attendance each month.

Connie Williamson and Cindy Henry have led the chapter for two years, following in the footsteps of, among many, Wendy Frattolin and Ramona Lopez-Finn, Anita Dutrow, Jo Prostko, Florae Helmstetter, Roxanne Cordonier, and Co-Founders Marsha Wallace and Barb Collins.

It is no small achievement to have kept a chapter running for so long, and it has taken many hands to reach this milestone.

“I think the longevity lies in giving us an opportunity to learn more about women’s issues and giving us an opportunity to help them,” said Connie Williamson. “Pooling our resources, collective giving gives us an opportunity to really make a big difference.”

Flexibility has been one of the chapter’s core principles, allowing members to attend when they can and accepting whatever level of participation they are able to offer.

“To accept people who can’t be there on a regular basis and just take people as they come – because everybody’s got different schedules and even though they may be interested and want to come occasionally, they can’t always commit to coming on a monthly basis,” Connie said. “I think flexibility has kept our chapter going.”

Cindy Henry said the chapter’s success lands squarely on the support of its members.

“Since we are the first chapter which was under the guidance and commitment of DFW’s co-founders, I think there is a sense of ownership to the organization, a legacy that had been passed on to us,” she said. “It’s a legacy and a shared commitment that we honor.”

While every chapter is important, Co-Founder Marsha Wallace likens the Greenville-1 chapter to the Olympic flame from which all other torches – DFW chapters – are lit.

“It’s important to keep the flame burning,” she said. “I’m pleased that DFW continues to mean so much to so many and that the good work continues.”

Connie said DFW’s mission resonates with members and allows them to make a difference in the world, while also building new relationships. “Jane Goodall said what you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make,” she said. “That speaks to the collective giving and the pooling of resources that Dining for Women operates under. I want to really thank Marsha and Barb for having the insight to gather people to learn about issues and to help make a difference.”