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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Reaching Out To Help One Woman

Jan 27, 2016 01:00PM ● By Ronda Alvey

Hands of Hope

February 2016

By Jordan Venema 

Photos by Tamara Orth

Don’t be fooled by its name, because the nonprofit Helping One Woman is doing much more than helping just one woman. First, each chapter of the national organization helps one woman every month, and second, it has 12 chapters, most of which are based in the Central Valley. That’s a lot of women getting help through HOW.

Also, don’t think that because HOW is a national organization, with a chapter in Georgia and another starting in Arizona, that the women helped through this nonprofit are just names on a paper application, and the recipients of some distant aid that’s been distilled through the layers of a bureaucratic organization. HOW is more, even, than a grassroots organization and more like a group of close-knit friends.

“It all started in Fresno as a girls night out,” explains Stacy Heaton, co-leader of the HOW Visalia Chapter. The organization’s co-founders, Charlotte Bavardo and Brenda Critzer, “just wanted to ease the material burden for women experiencing a non-material time of loss or hardship.”

What began between 35 friends in Fresno in 2008 soon spread across the country, hosting dinners with as many as 300 people in attendance, all present to emotionally and financially support one woman.

Heaton first heard about HOW almost by chance. “I attended a dinner as a vendor as a last-minute fill in,” she says, “and three hours later I was at this dinner that I’d heard of but never been to.” 

Heaton didn’t know much about Helping One Woman, but she was blown away by displays of love and support. “Just the experience of being there, watching these people who wanted to help somebody, and realizing how much I had in my life – and I wanted to be able to give back to the community.”

Heaton was so impressed by her first attendance in November 2014 that by January 2015, she was helping host a HOW dinner.

The aim of Helping One Woman is pretty straightforward: summarily, to help one woman. Heaton specifies that “each month a different woman, a local woman is selected,” somebody who has suffered an “irreplaceable loss,” such as the death of a family member or the loss of personal health.

The Visalia chapter holds its monthly dinner every third Tuesday at the Visalia Marriott, and tickets cost $17 to cover the cost of the meal. “Marriott gives us a great deal. They donate the room and they give us a great price on the dinner,” says Heaton.

Anybody is welcome to attend the dinner – women, men, and children – but in addition to the price per meal, attendees donate $10 at the door, which goes directly to the woman being supported that month. On average, Visalia HOW hosts between 75 and 150 guests, but they’ve had as many as 300 people, raising as much as $3,000. 

Those who attend are also welcome to write down the name of a woman to be nominated for the next month’s dinner. “It’s a pretty simple process,” she explains. “The nominations are put into a bowl and next month’s honoree is randomly selected.” 

RSVPs are requested via email or on the Facebook page. Advertising for the event is mostly by word-of-mouth.

The group’s vision statement is, “We envision a world where everyone is willing to provide comfort and support to another person when they need hope restored in their lives.” And as the organization gives to that one woman, often, says Heaton, “a lot of them continue coming back to support other women.” 

Helping One Woman • (559) 372-2739 • • Find them on Facebook