They bring apples baked with stuffing and pork, salads, casseroles, dips and desserts.
They bring a heaping helping of goodwill, too.
On the third Thursday evening of each month at the Downriver Council for the Arts in Wyandotte, Mich., women talk, eat and give cash to a cause.
The goal is to raise money for women and children living in poverty around the world – empowering them, giving them tools to lift themselves out of despair – while sharing a meal and learning about another culture.
They do it by pooling the $10 or $20 or $30 each would have spent on an evening out with friends to benefit people in need, instead.
It’s part of a national organization called Dining for Women, which was founded nearly a decade ago in South Carolina.
Since then, the nonprofit has grown to include 9,000 members, with 389 chapters in the U.S. Dining for Women is on track to raise about $800,000 this year, says Jamye Cooper, executive director of the national program.
“It’s the power of collective giving," Cooper says. “When you have 9,000 members who are giving something on a fairly regular basis throughout the year, you can really make a big dent in these women’s and children’s issues in developing countries."
To Lynne Savage, 59, a dental hygienist from Grosse Ile, Mich., it’s gratifying to know that "our little group really is making a difference for so many women who really need our help."
She co-founded the Wyandotte chapter in March. Forty-four women attended that first meeting at the Grosse Ile Yacht Club, collecting $1,075 to educate women in Liberia and Sierra Leone about hygiene, land and water use.
Each month, Dining for Women chooses an international cause to support. In October, the focus was on the women of Ajmer, India, where the caste system and poverty have forced many into prostitution.
“You really learn about what’s going on in countries around the world, and you’re thankful that you’re living in the United States," says member Collie Hooper-Yan, 65, a retired school nurse and former school board president from Grosse Ile.
"I’m impressed by the things that we can do with our $20, and what it can buy. Just $25 can buy an education for a year for a girl in Afghanistan."
To learn more about Dining for Women, go to www.diningforwomen.org