It's a ladies night out with a purpose -- to find someone in need of a helping hand. The third Wednesday of every month, women are invited to gather at a local restaurant as part of "Helping One Woman" (HOW). Every woman that attends puts $10 in a jar that will later go to a woman who could use a little help.
It was a tragic loss that made Oakhurst resident Patricia Fuentes decide she needed to do something to help those around her in need -- three years ago she lost her daughter, Jessica, to cancer.
"She was such a giving, loving person and when she was dying, she had so many people come forward to help her," Fuentes said. "It's my way of honoring my daughter and giving back."
Fuentes didn't learn about HOW until after her daughter passed away, but when she heard about it she called one of the original founders in Fresno and talked to her about starting a chapter in the Mountain Area.
"It's just amazing what the organization has done for women and it's a fun way to help someone," Fuentes said. "HOW began in 2008 in Fresno with two friends going to dinner for a girl's night out and wanting to help someone they knew that needed help. They got a group of women together, threw money in fish bowl, and that's how the group began. It continued to grow and grow and now there are chapters all over California and there's even one in Georgia."
The Oakhurst HOW held their first meeting in May and presented their first recipient with a check in June. Their first recipient was Tracy Mayn who recently lost her son from complications after a vehicle accident.
Everyone that comes to the dinner is given a form to fill out to recommend a recipient for the following month's dinner. The forms are put in a basket and, after they're reviewed, the previous month's recipient draws a name out of the jar to reveal next month's recipient.
"I think women are the foundation of family and the community," Fuentes said. "Women have a special bond with other women and it's just to support each other. I think any community can use an organization like this, but I think in the mountains, we don't get a lot of things and don't have a lot of services like others do. I would like to see it become an important part of the community so all women can know that by helping one woman they can help a family, a community."
Fuentes started the Oakhurst chapter with Donna Dozier and soon Susan Dykes and Helen Brown were also on board. Dozier was a recipient herself back in 2008 after falling off her roof and breaking her neck. With the money she received, Dozier purchased exercise equipment to aid in her recovery and later donated the equipment to someone else in need.
"When Patty (Fuentes) brought it up that she had heard about this, I said 'I'm in,'" Dozier said. "It will bring more community to the women. I know there are people that go through hard times and ... it's always nice to be thought of."
One thing Dozier liked about the non profit group is that there is no membership so ladies can come at their convenience. Dozier said being a part of the group and being able to help other women makes you feel better and added that you never know when you yourself will be in need of some help.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd fall off my roof and break my neck," she said. "It's just nice to have the woman camaraderie where you don't have to pay dues, nothings' required except to have a good time and put $10 in the pot. The only thing you're committing to is a two hour dinner with your girlfriends. And you never know who you could meet. Your new best friend might be sitting next to you."
Both Dozier and Fuentes hope to see the group grow bigger so the group can help even more women. And on top of helping other women, it's just plain fun according to Dozier.
"We're already having a lot of fun at the dinners, snorting we are laughing so much," Dozier said. "Hopefully we get to the point where we can donate outside the area because we've helped everyone in our area."
This month's meeting will be changed from the normal third Wednesday of the month to 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 25 at Casa Velasco in Oakhurst. For reservations, call (559) 683-8000.