A History of Collaboration & Serendipity
Dining for Women was founded in Greenville, SC in 2003 by Marsha Wallace and Barb Collins – two women whose backgrounds made them uniquely called to launch a global movement that harnesses the collective action of people who share the vision for an equitable world for all.
A mother of four and a former obstetrics nurse and educator, Marsha Wallace was at a crossroads in her life when the idea for Dining for Women originated. She felt increasingly compelled to find a way to make a difference in the world and live with more passion. In the fall of 2002, she read an article about a group of friends who met for potluck dinners and collected donations for needy families using the money they would have otherwise spent in restaurants. Marsha was struck by the idea of using “dining out dollars” to help others. On her birthday in January 2003, she invited some friends to her home to celebrate, a hat was passed and $750 was raised for Women for Women International, a nonprofit that supports marginalized women affected by war and conflict.
Barb Collins’ invitation to her neighbor’s birthday party was the first of many serendipitous moments in Dining for Women’s history. Barb was raised by a father whose humility and courage was a beacon throughout her life. He taught her that true leadership begins with a code of personal values and a commitment to living to serve others. Barb devoted her career to working in the nonprofit sector and, in 1999 she took a life-altering trip to Tanzania where her father was helping to develop leadership within the Lutheran church of Tanzania. After this experience, a flame lingered in Barb for reaching across the oceans to keep opening doors of opportunity for the remarkable women she met. In 2003, when invited to Marsha Wallace’s unusual birthday party, Barb’s passion and experience merged into her calling.
The collaboration between Marsha and Barb led to the founding of Dining for Women and a wave of eye-opening education and awareness that spread across the country, making significant positive changes for women and girls across the globe. Dining for Women received its 501(c)3 status in 2004. In 2005, the organization was included in a “New Ventures in Philanthropy” study on giving circles – an important milestone because it increased the young organization’s profile and led to significant growth in the years to come.
Today, more than 32,000 individuals have gathered around dining room tables and in kitchens throughout the country, becoming agents of change by amassing small gifts that have grown into more than $7 million in grants. These efforts have led to partnerships with the Peace Corps, UNICEF, OXFAM, and Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative.
In 2014, Marsha and Barb were awarded the Everyday Freedom Heroes Award from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, OH.
To learn more about how Dining for Women got started, listen to this 30-minute podcast with Barb and Marsha from Sandy Klein’s Conversation’s with Creative Women.
In 2019, Barb published her first book entitled Love, Norm which tells the story of her father, Dr. Norman D. Fintel, his life lessons and how deeply he made her believe that she could change the world.