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Celebrating People, Places & the Good Life in SW Washington State
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Category — Interesting People

10 Minute Conversation with Nikki Klock, Editor of the Vancouver Family Magazine

Nikki Klock is the Editor of Vancouver Family Magazine. She has lived in Vancouver with her family since 2003 when they moved to the area after college from Utah.  She is the mother of two daughters, ages 6 and 9, who attend Vancouver Public Schools. We spoke at the new Vancouver Community Library which was named one of the country’s top ten children’s libraries in the U.S by Livability.

Nikki Klock at the Vancouver Community Library Early Learning Center in Downtown Vancouver

What do you love about SW Washington?

I love what everybody else does. We have access to the mountains, we have access to the beach, we have access to all kinds of recreation and, having lived in other areas that don’t have access to those things, I love it. I wouldn’t want to live in the desert. I love the fresh fruit in season. My friends and family come and visit from Utah and say, “This fruit is just unlike anything we can get!” I love the food and the produce and gardening as well as the recreation.

The thing I love about Vancouver, and I never plan on leaving, is that is big enough to not feel like a small town, because I’m not a small town person and it’s small enough to be like a small town. It has all the things you want about a small town and all the things you want about a big city and it is absolutely perfect for my family and me.

What is the best-kept secret about SW Washington?

Southwest Washington’s best-kept secret is definitely Alderbrook Park, out in the Brush Prairie/Hockinson area. It has a pool, petting zoo, train, bounce houses, pirate ship, maze, open fields, walking trails, and even drinking fountains with pink lemonade! For years it was available only for private events such as weddings but in 2011 they got new owners and opened it to the public on weekdays in the summer. It’s an awesome place for families, and an incredible price for everything there is to do ($5-$8 per person).

What is your favorite place to relax or play in SW Washington?

We love going to the parks in addition to the library system. We have visited Lewisville Park and played in the water, we love Frenchman’s Bar. Outside and in the water. The kids love the water. I’m not as big of a fan but I love to sit and watch them play with my husband. There is a sand beach and there are 6-10 volleyball nets, a full playground, there is grass and paved paths between Frenchman’s Bar and Vancouver Lake if you want to go biking.

I love downtown Vancouver. We love Esther Short Park, the concerts in the park. We saw the Journey tribute band. We are huge Journey fans and the kids were singing along.

In the winter – the library. We love, love, love everything about the library.

If you didn’t live here, where would you live?

Probably Utah because my family is there. Utah Valley south of Salt Lake City. (But she definitely has no plans to move.)

What’s coming up that you are excited about?

In the magazine, we are getting ready to launch our 5th annual Best of Vancouver Awards. That’s always really fun. I like seeing where people like to go. I like being out and about. I really love counting up those votes.

As far as my kids – I love watching them grow up. Now they are in school full time and it’s a different type of joy than when they were babies. You watch their first steps and see their first teeth but now they are learning division and we are starting to think about middle school. I am loving watching my kids growing up. And getting ready for teenagehood. That is where we are right now — laying that groundwork for teenagehood so wish me luck!

What would surprise people to know about you?

Oh, I am soooo boring! I LOVE to cook and clean and be domestic. I’ve got my job and I love all the things that go along with that and working, but sometimes I want to just take a day off and can peaches and clean the house and be a housewife. So I love being domestic. I love cooking, preserving food, drying food. What might surprise people is that I am boring. I am healthy, no phobias and I am just your average, everyday married mommy.

Trying out the row boat at the Early Learning Center

September 22, 2012   No Comments

Shops to Love: Sweet Spot Skirts

Stephanie Carroll, Owner of Sweet Spot Skirts in Downtown Vancouver

Stephanie Carroll is an evangelist. She’s a vocal advocate for sporty, comfortable skirts and women are following her lead, converting their wardrobes to include her designs, which are worn over tights and other sportswear.

As a Vancouver real estate agent, Stephanie zipped around town by bike to visit her listings. “I used to wear a little disco skirt when I ran around checking my flyer boxes and taking photos.” When she received compliments about her short skirt, which covered her biking clothes, from two male acquaintances, the proverbial light bulb went off. “I think I can do better” with a skirt design, she thought.

Birth of a business
In February 2010 she took 45 skirts, all made by local seamstresses, to a bike swap in Seattle. She sold out and immediately filed for business incorporation of her Vancouver, WA-based Sweet Spot™ Skirts®.

At the beginning “it was a bookkeeper, myself and a seamer,” she says.” I was working out of my 9’ x 9’ bedroom in Vancouver. I lived frugally. The bedroom I was working in, I just stacked fabric and it was crazy.”

Fabric on display.

Stephanie continued to hire local seamstresses. In 2011 she hired a marketing director and they hit the road, selling skirts at events. “As a designer and creator of these items that these women love – I have tried my skirts on 2,000 plus women over just the last few months.”

Whether selling products from her downtown Vancouver shop, on her Web site at www.SweetSpotSkirts.com or from her 16’ Airstream trailer at events, Stephanie is attracting major attention with her designs.

Taking the skirts on the road, marketing with social media
Selling on the road is hard work, she says, but worth it. She spent July in the Midwest, selling her skirts at events like RAGBRAI, a 10,000-rider bicycle trip across Iowa.

While events have been a marketing mainstay , social media, particularly Facebook, has been the #1 sales tool for Sweet Spot Skirts, Stephanie says.  And hiring a marketing director was a turning point. “The marketing director has almost doubled or tripled our online sales and our exposure and she has been key to growing the revenue.”

Stephanie’s goals for  Sweet Spot Skirts are simple:

  1. Have fun.
  2. When goal #1 is done… Have a little bit more fun!
  3. Stay out of debt.

Skirts sewn on-site

Quality design, up close and personal

They hope to saturate the biking community with the bright, reversible skirts and outfit women for other sports including golf, yoga, running and tennis, among others. Future plans for growth include a big November 2012 release of a children’s line, new “flirty” skirts and kilts. She would like to eventually have a manufacturing site in Vancouver. “We are not going to go to China,” Stephanie says. “If we can’t grow this thing in the United States, we have to make it happen, we have to figure out a way.”

Sweet Spot Skirts Shop

Creating a headquarters in Vancouver
The downtown Vancouver store is a hub for the business. Located in the former Sixth Street Gallery at 105 W. 6th, the shop features wood floors, stacks of the colorful skirts and bolts of fabric where “you can go to the wall and pick out your fabric and have your skirt made,” Stephanie says.  There is no extra charge for the custom skirts. An operations director and store manager spend their days creating skirts and prototypes as well as assisting customers.

“We are working when people walk in. This is more of a manufacturing site. We call it our destination retail. You can come in and have a cup of coffee, you can have your skirt made, you can rent a bike.” Skirts that are sold wholesale are manufactured in Wilsonville.

Skirts on display

More skirts!

Proskins, jerseys and hats

Flipside Hats from Portland

Displays of the skirts, which sell for $69, are featured in the front along with hats by Flipside Hats, Proskins and Moxie Cycling Jerseys. The store offers bike rentals by the hour. The shop, which has the open feel of the former gallery including rotating art exhibits, is available for special events like bachelorette and birthday parties. They partner with local businesses like Top Shelf, which provides food and drink across the street from the shop.

Bikes for rent

Bike helmets

When asked what would surprise people about Stephanie, who is a whirlwind of ideas, her staff is unanimous: “She doesn’t sew a stitch!”

“I don’t know anything about sewing,” Stephanie admits. “I just know what I want it to look like.”

Shops (and Skirts) to Love: Sweet Spot Skirts

Stephanie may not sew but she knows how to envision and sell her popular skirts. Check out Stephanie’s designs, the work of her seamstresses and other products at Sweet Spot Skirts in Vancouver at 105 W. 6th Street, at www.SweetSpotSkirts.comSweet Spot Skirts on Facebook or the company blog.

 

 

August 15, 2012   2 Comments

10 Minute Conversation with Noland Hoshino

Noland Hoshino lives and breathes social media. He is the owner of Bcause Media, which specializes in digital marketing and social media optimization for businesses and non-profit organizations. Before retiring from a 20-year career with the Air Force, he lived in the Japan, Australia,  Germany and various U.S. locations. He has been honored for his social media work with the Portland office of Heifer International.  We chatted at Latte Da Coffee House and Wine Bar in Vancouver.

Noland Hoshino at Latte Da Coffee House in Vancouver

What brought you to SW Washington?

I used to be in the Air Force and my last station was here in Vancouver. I was the District Manager for Air Force recruiting so I recruited in Portland, Vancouver and Astoria. I always wanted to come to Washington. I grew up in Hawaii but Washington was always in my scope because I love the trees. Funny thing, I love the rain. I love the Pacific Northwest so fortunately this was my last station and I decided that’s it. I’m going to stay here. It’s so easy for me to go home to Hawaii. I’ve been in Vancouver for 12 years now.

What do you love about SW Washington?

I love the greenery, the nature. There is a thing about the people here – that it feels like a small town and that’s what I love about it. There is a community feel about it that I love. It’s not Portland. It’s not Seattle. It’s like we are in this in-between state. There is still a lot of prosperity and a lot of growth coming up here soon. That’s what’s I’m excited about — the next phase of what Vancouver can be. The buildout with the bridge, downtown building up. I’m super excited about that. Our goal is to sell our house and move down there because we want to downsize and travel more.

What is the best-kept secret about SW Washington?

For me, I love the hideaway places, especially if I go out toward Vancouver Lake like Frenchman’s Bar. People don’t know it but it is so nice out there. And the ability to take the train from downtown Vancouver to Seattle. Leave your car there (at the Amtrak Station) and the train ride is awesome with a great view. So I highly recommend that people take the train up to Seattle. Our Farmer’s Market downtown is awesome and all the festivals that happen in the park.

What is your favorite place to relax or play in SW Washington?

Where I live, we have a pretty cool area – Burnt Bridge Creek Trail. Where I live in Northwest neighborhood, they renovated the whole area. That’s a best kept secret too. Nobody knows about this little trail (Stewart Glen). They widened the trail. It is beautiful and it is right down the street from my house so I can take my dogs down there for a walk. It’s so secluded. A lot of people don’t know about it.

If you didn’t live here, where would you live?

Probably Seattle. I love the water. I grew up in Hawaii so I’ve got to have either a mountain or water nearby. I can’t deal with flat. I recently fell in love with South Lake Union in Seattle. It’s kind of like what the Pearl used to be.

What’s coming up that you are excited about?

We’re doing social media strategies with someone (Annette Cleveland) who is running for Congress. Also, I just got tapped to do a fundraiser on social media for Share on June 14 to raise as much money as I can in 24 hours. It’s kind of like a telethon. All the money that I raise goes to Share. It’s a national contest – Twive and Receive  but only one person can claim a city so I claimed Vancouver, said I’m doing it and I’m picking Share.

Our company also produces books. We have another one coming up in May, Social Media Road Map, a strategy book, because now that people are in that (social media) space, they say “Now what do we do?”

What would surprise people to know about you?

My age? That I’m retired? My sole goal now is to do good and help people out.

I collect Winnie the Pooh coffee cups. I’ve always loved Winnie the Pooh. I have 50 – all Poohs. I have been banned from buying any more. I just love them!

 

 

 

April 23, 2012   No Comments

SW Washington Wineries: An Interview with Winemaker Michele Bloomquist of Heisen House Vineyards

Southwest Washington has a very dynamic wine industry. WineTrails NW lists 30 wineries in the region. Wineries are scattered throughout the area in scenic rural areas and urban settings like downtown Vancouver.  This is the first in a series of profiles of Southwest Washington wineries and winemakers.

First up – an interview with Michele Bloomquist of  Heisen House Vineyards. With its historic, 1898 home and restored barn, which is one of the oldest in Clark County, Heisen House Vineyards is located just north of Battle Ground at 28005 NE 172nd Avenue on a site with a rich history. The Heisen House is a family home and not open to the public. However, outdoor and indoor tasting rooms (in a beautifully remodeled milking parlor) allow for visiting the winery regardless of the weather on Saturdays and Sundays from noon until 5 p.m.

A benefit of blogging – this interview was conducted while sampling nine(!) different wines in the outdoor tasting room. We are happy to report that all were excellent and two (2009 Sangiovese and 2010 “Happy” Sparkling White Wine) were purchased for later consumption.

 

Winemaker Michele Bloomquist of Heisen House Vineyards

 

Michele Bloomquist (MB): The first wine I ever heard of was Boone’s Farm. And then there were all the country coolers and all that stuff. I graduated from college in 1996.  I got a job at a company in San Francisco and I would go down there on Monday morning and come back on Thursday night. I had a good friend who lives down there and she and her husband loved to go wine tasting. They would take me wine tasting to Napa and Sonoma and that was my first introduction to wine tasting. That is how it happened in 1998 or 1999.

ZEST: How did you learn to make wine? Who were your mentors? Did you have special training?

MB: Walt Houser at Bethany Vineyard was very supportive as was Carl English of English Estate Winery. I’ve picked everybody’s brains and whenever a problem comes up, Gary Gouger of Gouger Cellars, has been very helpful. He has a degree in enology. And I also learned from books and just doing it.

I have taken some classes at Clark College. John Dingenthal and Bill Fuller were the teachers and I learned a lot from them as well.  Those classes were really helpful. I was already winemaking  by the time I started taking those classes but both of those professors were 20-year veterans of the industry so it was a great opportunity to learn from them about vines and wines.

The Historic Heisen House (1898)

ZEST: How did you end up with your winery? When was it founded?

MB: It wasn’t a plan. It happened by accident. I was driving by one day and I saw a little glimpse of the peak of the roof of the house. At that time, it was completely surrounded by bushes and shrubs.  You could hardly see there was house there. All this [the vineyard] was blackberries and briars, tires and stumps and concrete chunks. But I could see a little glimpse of the house so I pulled in and there was a for sale sign. That was 2002.

I fell in love with the house and that’s how I came here. During the process of making the offer, I found out that the house was on the state and national historic registers and here it was vacant and falling apart and neglected and the barn was falling down and the house hadn’t been cared for in many years. That is what first brought me to this property. I knew that I wanted to do something to share it with people because it’s a historic place.

So at first I was going to do a lavender farm, which you can see the remnants of my first voyage into lavender. Then that same summer the apple trees were loaded with apples and a friend said “Hey, let’s make hard apple cider.”  I had never made alcohol before but I had been wine tasting and it was so much fun and it turned out good and I was hooked.

So the next year I made cider and wine and then I started helping Walt and other people and reading about it and learning about it. You learn a lot by doing it. I spent about five years of hobby winemaking before Walt (of Bethany Vineyard) and other people were saying “You should open a winery.” So I can either thank Walt or blame him depending on the day!

The barn, tasting building and vineyard.

ZEST: Where do you get your grapes? For on-site grapes – how many acres do you grow and what kind are they?

MB: We opened on Memorial Day weekend, 2010.  We have one acre of grapes in production. I have Gamay Noir, Tempranillo, Gewurztraminer and Orange Muscat. It’s a test for the area. We are still trying to establish what grapes are right for Clark County.

We buy our grapes from growers in Eastern Washington (Walla Walla and Benton City). Our vines are still two summers away from having fruit. We’ll have hopefully four barrels of wine from those vines. But we are making 500 cases of wine a year so we have well exceeded what our vineyard would be able to provide. We are growing and we don’t have enough land to plant all the grapes that we need so we will always have to both purchase and grow, which is very common in the industry.

ZEST: What are your available wines?

MB: Currently, available wines are Reds – Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet, Cab Franc, Tempranillo and “one Love” Reserve Red Blend (all vintage 2009) and Whites – Dry Muscat, Dry Rose and Happy (a sparkling wine) (all vintage 2010). (Descriptions are available here.)

ZEST: Which is your favorite?

MB: Cabernet Franc

ZEST: Where are your wines available?

MB: Just here for now. We are probably going to have our wines soon at the Heisson Store and Mill Creek Pub in Battle Ground.

Heison House Winemakers Chris Eckels and Michelle Bloomquist

ZEST: How do you spend your days? What is a typical day for a winemaker?

MB: Well, I have another business. I work full-time as a freelance writer so Monday through Friday, I’m wearing my writing hat and the winery is our evening and weekend endeavor. My typical day is juggling  responsibilities – family, a freelance career and then the wine.

I don’t know if there is such a typical day. It’s very seasonal, in the fall we are making wine, in the winter, we are planning for the summer and pruning, in the spring we are bottling, in the summer we are open and waiting for the grapes and maintenance.

ZEST: How would you describe the SW Washington wine industry?

MB: We are in the golden age which is the emerging winery region. It’s a very special time. At every one of these wineries most likely the person behind the bar is going to be the winemaker who is pouring the wine. It’s a very special time and a very small window. For a lot of people who are serious wine tourers, that is the epitome of the winery experience to meet the winemaker at every single stop and you can do that here in Clark County.

ZEST: When you aren’t drinking your own wines, what are your current favorites?

MB:  My very favorite and probably the first wine that I tasted it and “got it” what good wine was at a place called The Pines in the Columbia Gorge. Their Red Zinfandel, which often sells out, that was the first time I thought “Wow, this is what good wine tastes like.” I would say that Hood River is one of my favorite areas (for tasting).

Lavender crop

ZEST: What is the best thing about being a winemaker?

MB: The best thing about is when the truck pulls up with a big bin of grapes and it’s time to get dirty.  That’s the very best part of being a winemaker. It is fun to make wine. I LOVE it.

ZEST: What is the hardest thing about being a winemaker?

MB: It is probably that I don’t get to go wine tasting as much as I used to and I miss it! And I would love to do more traveling but for right now we are growing our business and we need to be here.

ZEST: What is coming up that you’re excited about for your winery?

MB: We have the Battle Ground Wine Loop Tour next Saturday. Memorial Weekend is our big kickoff of the season – we will be open Saturday, Sunday and Monday, noon to 6 p.m. We are launching our Friday night music that same weekend. Every Friday night we will have music from 6-9 p.m. and a local restaurant comes out and serves food starting Memorial Day weekend all the way to the end of September. And then we have four farm festivals in the summer where we have artists and craftspeople come and set up and then we have fun that way, too!

Winery Details

Details about Heisen HouseVineyards are available at the winery Web site. The Battle Ground Wine Loop Tour,  which is held the 2nd Saturday of the month, visits Heisen House Vineyards along with Rusty Grape Vineyard and Olequa Cellars. For a complete (and growing!) list and map of 11 Clark County wineries visit here. For a longer list of wineries throughout Southwest Washington, visit WineTrailsNW.  No need to head to Napa. Get out there and try our local wines!

Winery photos courtesy of Heisen House Vineyards.

 

 

 

 

April 12, 2012   1 Comment

March is for Clams, Charlie Brown and Sasquatch

This is the month when we yearn for dry, sunny weather. Whether it’s still raining (it will be) or shining (it might be), abandon your recliner and get out there!


There is plenty to do in Southwest Washington in March. Here are a few options:

March 1Damn Yankees – Columbia Theatre brings the Broadway hit musical to Longview for one night. Tickets available through the theatre box office.

Oleg Ulitskiy's exhibit of boat paintings will continue at Art on the Boulevard in March

March 2First Friday Events - Vancouver, Camas and Ridgefield always offer convivial evenings on the first Friday of the month. Downtown Vancouver will hold its First Friday Art Walk from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Downtown Camas will hold a Lucky Leprechaun Scavenger Hunt and restaurants, shops and galleries will be open in downtown Ridgefield.

March 3 - Arts and Culture Summit - Join colleagues and friends to build a vision for the future of the arts in Clark County. The day will include a host of speakers and panelists.

March 4Ft. Vancouver Run – Rain or shine, registration for the Fred Meyer Ft. Vancouver Run starts at 7 a.m. Details here.

March 9-31You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown – Who can resist the characters from Peanuts? Presented by Love Street Playhouse in Woodland.

March 10Still Walking: Bigfoot in the Dark Divide and Beyond. Author and lepidopterist Dr. Robert Michael Pyle talks about his book on the search for Sasquatch in Washington State and exciting new developments at the Willapa Hills Audubon meeting in Longview. Meeting details here.

March 10-11 - Razor Clam Dig (tentative) – Dates are always tentative but the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced morning digs at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks. Licenses are required. No clamming is allowed after noon. Go here to read a past ZEST blog post on clamming. For details read the official WDFW announcement. Here are the rules and regulations.

Maryhill Museum, photo by Nayland Wilkins

March 15Opening Day – Maryhill Museum – Although not all parts of the museum will be open (watch for a May opening of the Mary and Bruce Stevenson wing) the museum will open the 2012 season with Beside the Big River: Images and Art of the Mid-Columbia Indians. with 40 photographs by Lee Moorhouse, Thomas Rutter and J.W. Thompson. View the exhibit catalog here.

March 16-17 - 17th Annual Peninsula Quilt Guild Exhibition – Head to the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum in Ilwaco to see the quilts by talented fiber artists of the Long Beach Peninsula.

March 17 - St. Patrick’s Day TeasPomeroy Living History Farm will offer formal teas to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Reservations are required.

Get your surfboards out. Beaches at Washington State Parks will be FREE on March 18-19!

March 18-19Washington State Park Free Day – In honor of Washington State Parks’ 99th birthday on March 19th, Washington State Parks will be free on March 18-19. Find Southwest Washington parks here. Parks along the Pacific Coast are here.


March 19
Women’s History Month Tea and Luncheon – March is a month for drinking tea! The Clark County Historical Museum in Vancouver offers this event.

March 24-25Spring Release Weekend – Maryhill Winery – Stop by the gorgeous tasting room of Maryhill Winery with its spectacular view of the Gorge. Details here.

March 24-25Razor Clam Dig (tentative) – Second announced dig for March! Dates are always tentative but the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced digs at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks. Licenses are required. Digs are timed with morning tides. No digging after noon. Go here to read a past ZEST blog post on clamming. For details read the official WDFW announcement. Here are the rules and regulations.

Spring is coming! Enjoy your March!

February 29, 2012   No Comments

What if YOU Could Change the World One Dinner at a Time?

How do you make a difference in the world? We’re tucked in our corner of Washington State looking out at a globe filled with unfathomable poverty, disease, injustice… It’s particularly hard to know how to make an impact in other countries where the level of need and lack of infrastructure is staggering, if not paralyzing.

Sometimes a simple yet impactful idea comes along that makes perfect sense. That’s what happened in 2003 when Marsha Wallace, a nurse and mother of four in South Carolina invited her friends for a birthday dinner with special instructions – no gifts please. Her friends instead shared a potluck and wrote checks to the organization Women for Women International. That was an “aha” moment for Marsha. Why couldn’t these dinners happen in other homes? She started spreading the idea of Dining for Women and did it ever spread. Nine years later and 250 chapters later, in February 2012, Dining for Women was featured on NBC Nightly news. View it here

Connecting Southwest Washington to the World
So what does this have to do with Southwest Washington? Once a month it has everything to do with our corner of the world. We, in fact, traveled the world without even dusting off our passports. For the past year, every 2nd Tuesday of the month, a Vancouver, WA Chapter of Dining for Women has gathered for a potluck dinner, short video and presentation about an organization offering life-changing programs for women and girls who often live on less than $1 a day. We eat, we drink and share good company. We learn about other cultures and international issues. And we get out our checkbooks and write checks for what we might have spent had we dined out. A giving circle is a simple concept with far-reaching effects.

Our first meeting, January 2011

It’s not just about our group of about 40 diners each month. Our donations are combined with the contributions of the other Dining for Women Chapters to raise funds for organizations that have gone through an application process and have been fully researched by Dining for Women volunteers. One group is funded each month with grants averaging about $36,000-$40,000. It is incredibly exciting to be investing in and empowering girls and women around the world.

Most DFW Chapters meet in homes. Our Chapter is larger than the average group so we meet in a church. We are hoping that more volunteers will start chapters throughout our area (or wherever they live!). For information on how to start a chapter click here . Use the same link to receive information about our chapter and others across the country and international locations.

Which groups did we fund in 2011?
In January 2011, we kicked off our local Dining for Women Chapter with a full house. By the end of the evening, we had raised $1100 for Matrichaya of India, which provides literacy and vocational training and micro-credit programs. It was a magical evening and the first of many sumptuous and inspiring dinners.

Matrichaya teachers

February drew even more women – 65! Our contributions supported PINCC (Prevention International: No Cervical Cancer) in El Salvador, where Dr. Kay Taylor uses our funds to train doctors and other health professionals to do life-saving cervical exams (with a simple vinegar wash) and treatment of cervical cancer. We also were reminded of the importance of getting our own pap smears done on a regular basis.

Dr. Kay Taylor provides training

We “traveled” to Africa in March to learn about, and fund, the work of Uganda’s Village Enterprise Fund, which is using our donations to fund startup capital and critical business skills training for 145 women entrepreneurs.

An entrepreneur from the Village Enterprise Fund

In April, we tackled sex trafficking by funding Lotus Outreach International in Cambodia. Our contributions will provide trauma counseling and reintegration assistance for Cambodian victims of rape, domestic violence and sex trafficking. Counseling services are rare in Cambodia. This is a breakthrough program.

Lotus Outreach classroom

We supported the women of Mujeres Aliadas in Mexico in May. We learned about their lack of access to quality, affordable health care. We raised funds to reduce maternal and infant mortality by supporting professional midwives and providing medical equipment in a women’s clinic and birthing center.

June took us back to Africa and the Shining Hope for Communities in Kenya. This program supports the Kibera School for Girls, which is located in one of the worst slums in Nairobi. Our funds are being used to operate the school and to invest in the Women’s Empowerment Project’s micro-enterprise initiatives. The photos of all those little girls who are now in school says it all. Don’t miss their charming video “I Know I Can.”

Students from the Kibera School for Girls

We learned about the lives of the young women being served by Emerge Global of Sri Lanka in July. These girls, ages 10-18, have been removed from their homes due to abuse such as rape and incest. The Emerge Global program provides them with skills and financial resources for their futures. Our funds helped support their expanding bead program, which creates gorgeous necklaces and bracelets. You can order their beautiful jewelry through their Etsy Web site here.

Helping the Sri Lankan girls of Emerge Global

August took us back to Africa and girls education at the Nurturing Minds Program in Tanzania. Our donations enabled the Sega Girls School to develop and manage its first school-run business—poultry farming—and develop related business and technical skills among its students. Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations has called the education of girls, “the single highest returning social investment in the world today.” Dining for Women is COMMITTED to the education and empowerment of those girls.

Girls from the Sega Girls School

Many of our hearts broke the night of September 13 when we heard the tragic stories of girls and women with obstetric fistulas. We raised funds ($1185 – our personal best for the year!) for the Fistula Foundation. Combined with the funds from other Chapters, our funds will help provide fistula repair surgery and post-op for 66 women in Ethiopia. We were all highly moved by the program. (We later learned that enough money was raised to fund even more surgeries.)

A young fistula patient

Guatemala has long been recognized for its beautiful crafts and textiles. But how do you get them to market? In October, we supported Mercado Global of Guatemala. This Fair Trade organization works with indigenous women in Guatemala’s highlands. The group connects the women with U.S. sales opportunities. Dining for Women dollars funded sales and training programs for the artisans so they could expand their businesses.

Mercado Global artisans

The India Literacy Project has a serious goal – 100% literacy in India. The group is tackling this issue one village at a time. Our funds raised in November will impact 26 villages in Sundargarh in the state of Orissa by providing girls’ scholarships and job skills, among other services. It is amazing how far our dollars can stretch through our funded programs.

India Literacy Project

We learned about Project Muso of Mali in December. We raised funds to provide matching grants, non-interest loans and financial management skills for 90 women entrepreneurs. We watched (and wanted to dance to the DVD soundtrack) the women creating beautiful mud cloth in their excellent video which shows the far-reaching impact of micro-loans as small as $60-$100.

Businesswoman from Mali

What a spectacular first year! Averaging $1,000 per dinner, we raised more than $12,000!

Onward in 2012

In the first half of 2012, we will fund programs in Nepal, Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Kenya. Programs funded in the second half of 2012 will be announced soon.

Thank about starting or joining a Chapter. Mentoring is available. If you are interested in more information about Dining for Women, check out the program Web site or fill out a member interest form. This is one evening each month where you can truly know feel that you are “changing the world one dinner at a time.”

Our February 2012 Meeting

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February 21, 2012   No Comments