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The Givers
Donna Hilbert, Chicks with Checks

After the presidential election of 2004, the poet and writer Donna Hilbert in Long Beach, California, was dismayed. "I felt that tax cuts for the rich were not what this country needed," she says, "particularly when social programs were being starved and library budgets cut." She and some friends went to a restaurant and discussed their distress. Over dinner, they came up with a way to make a difference.

Cheap date: "We thought, what if we had a dinner at one of our houses and charged $35 per person—what you'd pay for a dinner out—and gave the money to a local children's charity, where even $1,000 would do a lot of good?"

Taste of success: "We gave our first Progressive Dinner Party the Sunday after Thanksgiving, to benefit a local center for homeless children. We served pasta salad, bread, cookies, white wine, and sparkling water. We wanted to raise $1,000—we raised $3,000! We've hosted five parties so far, one every other month. On the alternate months, we have a virtual dinner. We all stay at home and send the money we would have spent to a cause outside the community: tsunami relief, or the troubles in Sudan and Darfur."

Just desserts: "It's not only about raising money—it's raising consciousness about how much poverty exists beneath the surface of our communities. My great hope is that the word can spread, because this is something that can be done in any town."
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