2017-03-31 / News

Susan Hendricks and Dining for Women

By Cathy Cobbs


On December 13, 2015, women met at Susan Carson Lambert’s home to celebrate seven years of giving to Dining for Women. The organization continues to meet once a month. Kneeling in front: Susan Hendricks, Susan Carson Lambert, Janie Kerzan, and Lauren Workman.Carolyn Holt and Bobbi Kennedy (holding the anniversary cake). Standing (mostly random order) – Rannie French, Keller Barron, Missy McIver, Amy Bell, Chris Risley-Curtiss, Janelle Rivers, Peggy Tarr, Barbara Austin, Jane Fancher, Becky Livingston, Mary Rogers, Paula Shirley, Galen McWilliams, Debbie Prier, Bonnie Holstein, Jeannie Eidson, and Annette Boette. On December 13, 2015, women met at Susan Carson Lambert’s home to celebrate seven years of giving to Dining for Women. The organization continues to meet once a month. Kneeling in front: Susan Hendricks, Susan Carson Lambert, Janie Kerzan, and Lauren Workman.Carolyn Holt and Bobbi Kennedy (holding the anniversary cake). Standing (mostly random order) – Rannie French, Keller Barron, Missy McIver, Amy Bell, Chris Risley-Curtiss, Janelle Rivers, Peggy Tarr, Barbara Austin, Jane Fancher, Becky Livingston, Mary Rogers, Paula Shirley, Galen McWilliams, Debbie Prier, Bonnie Holstein, Jeannie Eidson, and Annette Boette. Sometimes what blooms out of transition is amazing new beginnings. Columbia Star ’s columnist Susan Hendricks is a perfect example of that.

Hendricks, who now leads guided journal writing groups in Columbia as a licensed clinical social worker, certified journal therapist, and certified dream group leader, had “dropped out of the mainstream world of work,” but had no idea what she would do next.

“I was without a plan other than to be open to whatever felt ‘right and good’ and to follow those intuitions,” she said. “From the start, dreams, poetry, personal writing, and meditation helped give me direction. Looking back, it feels like a pilgrimage I’ve been on that is far from over.”

As Hendricks was searching for inspiration for what her new life would look like, she heard about Dining for Women, an organization founded by Greenville resident Marsha Wallace who works to change women’s lives in impoverished countries “one dinner at a time.”

The concept is simple. Instead of going to a restaurant with friends, they gather each month at someone’s home or community center, learn about a grassroots project that empowers women and girls, and donate the money they would have spent on dinner to that cause.

“As soon as I heard about Dining for Women, I was hooked,” Hendricks said. “I thought Marsha must be a kindred spirit, dreaming up good ideas and putting them into the world.”

After researching the cause, Hendricks and several other women, including friend and ETV executive Bobbi Kennedy, decided to try establishing a Columbia chapter in 2010. Wallace was the group’s first guest. Several thousand dollars were raised and the Columbia Dining for Women chapter was launched.

The chapter meets on the third Monday each month at different locations, and the group’s attendance stays steady about 25 to 30 women per month, said Kennedy. A typical meeting will net anywhere from $250 to $400 that will go towards the designated cause.

“Every month we learn about a new country and where the money is to be spent,” Kennedy said. “This month’s meeting focused on Mali (in West Africa), and the program focused on teaching women and children to read.”

On the Dining for Women website, the March program, called “Caravan to Class,” describes the details: “The project will train 200 women in 10 villages in classical literacy, teaching them basic reading, writing, and calculating in their local languages to both improve their livelihoods and empower this group of women to be important advocates for education in their villages.”

Both Kennedy and Hendricks say that the impact of the monetary gifts provided by the 600 or so chapters across the country can be seen for generations to come, and they have personally witnessed how the various programs implemented in these impoverished countries have led to dramatic improvement in the quality of life for women and children.

“ We are not only changing these women, we are changing the generations,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks has taken several trips to see how the Dining For Women dollars were affecting change—most recently in 2012 to Uganda, Nepal, and Kenya.

“ Traveling with other Dining for Women members from around the country to the poorest areas of the world challenged my courage in many ways, but the benefits far outweighed the pain,” she said. “I discovered strengths I had never known I had, met amazing people, and my eyes were opened like never before.”

For more information about the Columbia chapter, contact Hendricks at susanhendr@gmail.com. Visit the Dining for Women website at www.diningforwomen.org.

Return to top