Potluck raises funds, awareness for causes that help women

The Women's Dinner Initiative meets Dec. 6

By Jo Mathis

Legal News

As deputy legal counsel for the Michigan State Senate. Cate McClure had an up-close view when the state of Michigan was forced to make drastic budget cuts two years ago.

That's when the Lima Township resident realized that she didn't know a whole lot about the nonprofit safety nets in the private sector that would be forced to pick up some of the slack as social aid was slashed.

So McClure came up with a way to raise both awareness of these nonprofits and money to help support them.

She founded The Women's Dinner Initiative, an informal group of local women who meet quarterly for a potluck dinner to benefit a local nonprofit of the hostess' choice which benefits women or furthers issues of particular importance to women.

Representatives of the charity attend the potluck and discuss their work, including the social issues surrounding them. Attendees then donate to the charity, often between $25 and $50.

The eight potlucks so far have raised thousands of dollars for such groups as Safe House, Avalon House, Ozone House, SAPAC at the University of Michigan, the Conger Scholarship Fund, and Perry School.

According to McClure, the potlucks are a good opportunity for education and advocacy relating to the public policy and social issues affecting women in our community as well as networking.

"They offer an intimate venue for engaging in important issues which we may not have the time to think about otherwise," she said, " and they offer us the opportunity to pool our resources and thereby make much more of an impact with our donations."

On Thursday, Dec. 6, The Women's Dinner Initiative will host its annual holiday potluck from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at McClure's home. This year, the potluck will benefit the Military Spouses of Michigan, a nonprofit started by Jocelyn Benson, Wayne State University Law Professor, and former Secretary of State candidate. She will be at the event to speak as well.

About 30 of the nearly 400 women on the email list show up for each quarterly dinner, which women take turns hosting.

McClure is hoping for a big turn-out next week.

"Our strength lies in numbers, the more women who participate, the greater our impact," said McClure. "I'm always trying to expand the (invitation) list, because not everybody comes every time. And the more people who come, the more impact we have."

One dinner was held at an Ann Arbor restaurant, and when attendance was particularly high, McClure wondered if some would prefer to meet at a restaurant each time. But most women said they preferred the intimacy of a home. Because it's a potluck, it's not much work for the host, who simply provides water and one other simple drink, paper products, and the space, McClure said.

Though Michigan's budget is no longer in slashing mode, McClure has no intention of halting The Dinner Initiative.

"Even with improvements in the state budget, state assistance will never come back to prior levels so these groups continue to be of paramount importance to the wellbeing of our local women and families," she said. "Besides, the opportunity to get together with old and new friends, learn about these great nonprofits and the social issues they address, and support them by our group giving is something that I know none of our members want to give up."

To attend the upcoming event or a future potluck, write to womensdinnerinitiative@gmail.com.

Published: Thu, Nov 29, 2012