Fundraising group Dining for Women hosts Emerge Global founder Alia Whitney-Johnson

COOKING FOR CHANGE: Tera Broughton, left, and Sylvia Loveridge, right, get ready for the meal at a recent Dining for Women event hosted by Sheila Dunn. Photo by Cindy Kunst

WHAT: Dining for Women’s reception for Emerge Global founder Alia Whitney-Johnson

WHERE: The aSHEville Museum

WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 20, from 4-5:30 p.m.

WHY:Dining for Women is a giving circle that funds grants that support women and girls in developing countries,” explains Sue Fernbach, founder of the downtown Asheville chapter.

Fernbach’s group — one of several located in Western North Carolina — together with more than 400 additional chapters, expects to have raised $5 million in grants by the end of 2015. These funds are collected during monthly, member-hosted dinner parties, where individual chapters gather to discuss the network’s newest beneficiary.

“Everybody learns about the challenges facing women and girls in that particular region, and what the program that we’re funding is going to do to help them improve their lives,” Fernbach says. At the end of the meeting, people can make optional donations.

The local leader calls Dining for Women “small on both ends,” explaining that chapter dinners are intimate affairs and the beneficiaries are small, grassroots organizations. That makes membership an immersive process, which extends beyond the simple gesture of offering money without fully understanding its potential impact.

Photo courtesy of Alia Whitney-Johnson
Photo courtesy of Alia Whitney-Johnson

At an upcoming reception, Dining for Women will host Alia Whitney-Johnson, founder of Emerge Global and daughter of a Sandy Mush couple. Dining for Women funded Whitney-Johnson’s organization in July 2011.

“Emerge Global enables girls in Sri Lanka who have been victims of sexual abuse to become entrepreneurs,” reads an event release. “Specifically, they learn to become jewelry designers through an extensive curriculum that emphasizes personal development, mentorship, business knowledge and sustainability.”

Whitney-Johnson launched the organization at age 19, after serving as a tsunami-relief volunteer in Sri Lanka. She’ll be the guest of honor at the reception, presenting briefly and showing a video about Emerge Global before inviting attendees to peruse the womencentric venue, aSHEville museum.

Marsha Wallace, the original founder of Dining for Women, will also be in attendance.

“I thought it would be a great thing for the members of my chapter and other local chapters to actually meet somebody who started one of the organizations [funded by Dining for Women],” Fernbach says. “It just makes it more personal.”

Dining for Women’s reception — which will be a networking mixer rather than a dining experience — is free and open to the public. Visit for more information on the event. Please RSVP via facebook or by emailing

About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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