OAKHURST – The giving group “Helping One Woman” (HOW) returns to Todd’s Cookhouse Bar-B-Que this month, where the inaugural event took place nearly two years ago. All women are invited to meet and eat at Todd’s as part of HOW on Wednesday, Jan. 15 at 6 p.m., dining from a fixed price buffet.
No recipient is designated for January, and the evening is billed as a “Girls’ Night Out.”
Organizers have set January aside as a business meeting. New members are welcome to come and help plan future events, and the group will participate in nominating a new recipient.
HOW has been active in the Oakhurst area since the spring of 2012, when a group of local women banded together to serve others. While volunteers behind the scenes have changed as time has passed, the core mission of HOW remains the same.
“We envision a world where everyone is willing to provide comfort and support to another person when they need hope restored to their life,” says the vision statement. “In order to help create such a world, we are women joining together to demonstrate our support to help one woman at a time move forward on her journey through times of devastating trouble and loss. We believe that when we help one woman, we are helping one family and through that family we are helping our community.”
Since its inception, HOW has boosted the spirits and pocketbooks of mountain area women who have found themselves in often tragic and always unexpected circumstances with losses ranging from fire to illness, injury and death.
The club completes their mission by arranging monthly dinners at local restaurants. Sometimes the meal is a fixed price, other times guests order off the menu. Women pay for their own dinner and then contribute to a “pot” for the woman who is being honored that night.
“We honor women who are experiencing some kind of irreplaceable loss. The dinner is a time to show support and encouragement to her. One way we do this is by presenting her with a monetary gift which is a collection of money that the women in attendance have given.”
Money in the form of cash or check is collected in a bowl, and 100% of it goes directly to the recipient. The suggested gift is $10, though it’s okay to give more.
“The money itself is not intended to be the main gift; it is just a tangible sign of the love and support behind it.” And then, they pay it forward. “At the dinner, the recipient randomly chooses the next month’s recipient from a box of nomination forms that have been filled out at the dinner.”
The uplifting events provide opportunities for women to connect and reconnect with people. “New friendships are made, and old ones are strengthened,” say organizers.”Seeing the strength of women who are enduring challenges that are more trying than our own helps put things in perspective for us. Oftentimes our personal struggles don’t seem as big in light of what others are going through.”
Recipients of HOW dinners in the past year include residents of Oakhurst, Coarsegold and Ahwahnee. Cheryl Liston and Anette Poplarchick were each seriously injured in separate and unrelated auto accidents. Lynn Oliver had major surgery to rebuild her ankle. Pamela Payne was injured and lost her home in a fire, and Fay McHatten was badly hurt in an industrial accident.
Darla Dean was already a HOW supporter when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, while Tiffany Mumm has suffered with Crohn’s disease for years. Lauren Woodington lost her husband after a lengthy illness. Linda Jeffries was widowed suddenly, as was Heather Wilbour, mother of two young sons. Karen Wood gave birth to a stillborn child.
Clearly, no one wants to find themselves on the receiving end of a HOW dinner, since that goes hand-in-hand with a life-altering complication or catastrophe. The good news is that HOW is available to help, representing an entire community of sometimes unmet friends who make it their business to care.
“Seeing these examples of faith and endurance helps give us hope and confidence, as we continue our own journeys. It also inspires us to spread that same encouragement and hope to someone else.”
HOW has held dinners at restaurants and venues around the mountain area, including the Hitching Post, Sweetwater Steak House, DiCicco’s, El Cid, Crabcakes, Produce Place, and the Queen’s Inn (with Produce Place catering).
The group has also participated in the annual Christmas Tree Auction at The Pines Resort for the past two years.
At the meeting in November, 2013, long-time volunteer and co-founder Patti Martin Fuentes announced that she would be leaving the local group and working with the regional Board of Directors for HOW, helping to grow and contribute to the national organization. Co-founder Donna Dozier, Susan Dykes and Jodi Dillon comprise the current HOW team for Oakhurst. Dozier was a Fresno area HOW recipient in 2009.
For more information visit HOW on Facebook.
Nominees for the next recipient will be accepted at the upcoming dinner. To make a reservation for the gathering on Wednesday, Jan. 15, call Todd’s at 559-642-4900.