May 18, 2008 — An urge to give back to the community has motivated two groups of women to do something helpful for other women and children — and something fun for themselves.
Charity Girls started about a year ago says Debi Davis, one of its founders. It's a group of women who gather every other month to cook a gourmet meal, charge each member $50, and donate the profits to a group of their choosing.
A year or so earlier, the same spirit hit Sharon McIver, one of the founders of Dinner and a Cause. The idea started in California with Sharon's sister, Trina, and has been featured on "Oprah."
In 2006, McIver got together with some friends — Suzanne Mabe, Terry Halpern and Pam Larsen — and got the project going.
"Our only criteria," McIver says, "is that the organization or group we find is small enough to need our money, the kind of organization that falls through the cracks and doesn't get federal funding. We don't raise a lot, so it has to be something that could use smaller donations."
The group is strictly women; no men allowed. McIver says it has no overhead of any kind. "All the money we collect goes straight to the organization," she says. "We select groups that help women and children, mainly."
Davis, real estate broker and perennial Women's Jogger Jammer, says Charity Girls was born out of a conversation with her early morning walking buddies. Davis is a native Virgin Islander with strong feelings about her community.
"Six of us including Andrea Martin, Cecile deJongh, Billie Hodges and Marjorie Roberts and Joyce Bailey meet several mornings a week for a 5:30 a.m. walk," Davis says. "We are all successful women. Most of us have raised our families. We've all been on boards and committees," she says.
"I told them I wanted to get away from that; do something where we could see results. We started talking and came up with the dinner idea," Davis says. "And we also wanted to do something fun to do. Everybody agreed." And, Charity Girls was born.
"We have only a couple rules; no men and members must be over 40," Davis says, adding with a laugh, "and no mini-skirts." She says they are keeping the membership small enough, about 24, to continue to hold the dinners in one another's homes.
The results of their effort have exceeded the ladies' ambitions. The first year, 2007, they provided $9,500 in grants to three organizations: Family Resource Center, $3,500; Nana Baby-Children's Home, $3,500 and Girl Power, $2,500.
The women collect $50 at the door for the dinners, but anything further is happily accepted, Davis says. And they have no bookkeeping headaches. All the paperwork is provided by the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands.
Dee Baecher-Brown, CFVI president, says, "We are honored the Charity Girls have allowed us to help them with their philanthropy. CFVI is able to handle their financial management and administration.. Because of our Angel donors, our service is at no cost."
McIver says the fledgling Dinner and a Cause is growing rapidly. "Sometimes now we hold dinners at restaurants to accommodate everybody. We each contribute $35 at the door, or more if we can afford it. We use the free evite.com to send out invitations. We started with 30, and now it's up to 80," she says. It's a word-of-mouth project, one friend to another.
Local restaurants, including Havana Blue, Oceana, Old Stone Farmhouse and Hook Line and Sinker, have stepped up to partner with the group when its guest list swells beyond a home gathering.
Since its first dinner in March 2006, participants have donated over $32,000 to charities. Those include Nana-Children's Baby Home, Kidscope, The Family Connection, Bethlehem House and the Queen Louise Home for Children on St. Croix.
The organization now has a website http://dinnerandacause.com/about.html. "We spoke at Rotary a while ago and asked for assistance," McIver says. "Dan McQuaid volunteered to create a webpage for us, and he maintains it for free. Whenever we have an evite, we just send it to him."
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