photo by mary preiser potts
Katlin Smith discovered Dining for Women, an organization dedicated to empowering women and girls in developing countries, in a 2010 travel piece about Africa published in The Oregonian. Intrigued by the article, Smith took a few friends and attended a meeting in Portland. The idea is that each chapter hosts a potluck dinner once a month. Members donate money they would otherwise spend on a dinner out, and Dining for Women uses the donations to fund a specific cause. Smith was so impressed with the organization that she founded a Vancouver chapter a few months later. The first dinner was held at the Unitarian Church with about 45 people in attendance.
“Not all chapters have so many people attending,” Smith said, “We just started big, and we stayed big.”
It’s no surprise that Smith’s chapter of Dining for Women draws such a crowd. After all, she has made a career of publicizing the good works of nonprofit organizations. Her chapter raises anywhere from $700 to $1,200 in an evening.
“Donations vary widely from person to person,” Smith said, “For some people a dinner out means a fancy restaurant. For others, it’s fast food – just whatever a typical dinner out would cost.”
Recently, Smith had the opportunity through Dining for Women to travel to Vietnam and visit several women who received microloans for businesses through the nonprofit Children of Vietnam. She was delighted to see the huge impact of these loans, some as little as $50, that give the women she met independence as small business owners while allowing them to keep their children in school.
Smith owns Urban Words Group, a public relations firm specializing in working with nonprofits and small businesses. She has been an active member of the Rotary Club of Vancouver since 2004, and currently serves as president of the Vancouver Rotary Foundation. In September the Rotary Foundation gave $48,000 in grants to community groups as well as giving scholarships to girls in Puerto Vallarta to encourage them to stay in school.
Smith was the recipient of a 2011 Rotary Club of Vancouver Vocational Service Award and a 2012 Ron Schmidt Community Involvement Award from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Portland Metro Chapter.
“My motivation for volunteering,” said Smith, “is to make an effective difference in people’s lives.”