Cambrian: Opinion

Womenade meets acute needs in SLO County

Dianne Brooke
Dianne Brooke

A friend of mine got me involved this past weekend with a lovely event sponsored by Twin Coyotes Winery here in Cambria. Sometimes I’m not really sure what I’m raising my hand to volunteer for, but, it was a Saturday night, I’ve no life and I like to try new things, so, sure …

“Girls Night Out” was not only about sampling wine and catered hors d’oeuvres but learning about essential oils, receiving foot massages and chair massages (that’s where I, Healing Hands of Happy Hill, volunteered) and participating in a silent auction for locally produced goods and services. A lovely evening was to be had, no doubt, but why? To benefit an organization I only learned about that night — SLO Womenade.

“In 2003, Sandy Richardson read an article in Real Simple Magazine about a Washington, D.C. pediatrician who began hosting fundraising potlucks to meet the unmet needs of her patients. Sandy had just retired from teaching and was looking for a way to give to the community. She gathered a few friends for a potluck, everyone made a donation, and the San Luis Obispo’s Womenade was born,” their brochure says. To date, there are 38 Womenade chapters across the country.

Some lovely ladies representing the group were on hand with information so I cornered them to tell me more. Sue Wild has been with the group since March 2016 and had had friends involved who invited her… like this event, you go, have fun, realize, “Hey, this feels good doing something for others like this!” and you keep on going!

SLO Womenade is nonprofit serving San Luis Obispo County. It is “a community network that donates items, time and money to meet essential needs. Referrals come from schools, medical professionals, county health departments and organizations such as Family Care Network, Women’s Shelter, CAPSLO and Transitions Mental Health,” the brochure goes on to say.

Wild clarified to me that the group addresses acute needs. All agencies contact it first to see what resources they have available and then get sourced out from there. They are accessed by referral only. Since their inception in 2003, they have accumulated more than $500,000 in funds for things such as dental and medical care, diapers, rent, eyeglasses, groceries, respite care, gas and more. They’ve also had items such as furniture, baby formula and more donated as well.

“In Los Osos, we have a backpack program where on Fridays we give the kids a backpack with things they may need for the weekend. They come back and we fill it again the following week. No judgment, no stigma … just needs being met,” Wild said enthusiastically.

“We hold quarterly potlucks in private homes where we bring a dish, a $35 and a friend or two who do the same and learn about what’s going on, raise awareness and have fun doing it. We also recently had a donor make a matching pledge of $10,000, which we met easily!” A grand recipe for success.

It’s organizations like this, grassroots, inclusive, fun, that make such a difference in this world. Thanks to Twin Coyotes for hosting the event, to my fellow therapists from Cambria Wellness, Diva Day Spa and Viyana Massage for donating their time as well.

Dianne Brooke’s column appears weekly and is special to The Cambrian. Visit her website at Email her at

SLO Womenade

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A testimonial from the website: “SLO Womenade is there for our Department of Social Services participants during their time of need when no other resources are available through our agency. Sometimes some things as simple as gas, a simple car repair, help with utilities, clothes, diapers, formula, etc. makes the difference between destitute and stability and SLO Womenade has been the safety net that has allowed our families to meet their urgent needs.” — Belinda Benassi, Child Welfare Services program manager, San Luis Obispo County Department of Social Services