Support is a powerful thing and “strength in numbers” is far more than a simple cliché.
These are two things Savvy women know to be true and the precise reason why chapters are so important to the existence and vitality of Savvy Women’s Alliance. Chapters include five or more women who meet at least eight times a year to discuss their personal journeys in nontoxic living and provide support for one another. Every chapter is unique and comes with its own challenges and triumphs. This month, I interviewed Beth Newberry and Trina Lavoie – two superstar women and co-founders of the Providence Chapter of the Savvy Women's Alliance – to ask them about their evolution and success as a chapter.
Julia: How did you become interested in the Savvy Women's Alliance and why did you decide to begin a Chapter?
Trina: I met Kristi Marsh years ago after reading her book Little Changes. I was working in the field of educating people about how to read labels and become ingredient detectives and was sharing safer alternatives. For quite some time I had been toying with the idea of creating a meeting-type group in our area geared towards safer, cleaner living. When I saw that Kristi was already on the move creating the Savvy Women’s Alliance as a nonprofit, I jumped at the chance to start a local Chapter! Personally, I believe that we as consumers have the power to make chemical policy change happen in this country. Bringing women together face-to-face to learn, educate, empower and grow together and enabling them to share what they learn with others is how a grassroots movement grows. I saw this as an amazing opportunity to create a positive shift in Providence, RI and surrounding cities and towns.
Julia: How has your Chapter grown and progressed since you started?
Beth: We are lucky enough to be so geographically close to Kristi so she came to our kickoff Gathering. While Trina and I definitely had ideas about things that we thought would make great topics, we really let the discussion flow and listened to what our guests wanted to talk about. That drove the subject matter that we have chosen to focus on. We were surprised about some of the subject matter people really wanted. Our first event was on feminine hygiene products and our second was on bees. I never knew bees could be so fascinating! It’s been such a fun experience for Trina and I to see what our members will want to tackle and to try to make it exciting and different. Our next meeting is going to be with the “Worm Ladies” talking about composting with worms.
Julia: What do you think makes a Savvy Women's Alliance Chapter successful?
Trina: First and foremost, it’s important to find a partner to help start your Chapter. Having someone to bounce ideas off of, help set up events, and create buzz on your page is extremely helpful. At our chapter meetings, we always ask about our chapter members and new guests: who they are, what they do, and where they are on their journey. We ask them to play a role within the night and beyond, pulling from their savviness on a topic, for example, and having them MC a gathering. We always create an inclusive environment, making everyone aware that no matter where they are in the nontoxic journey, they have a place with us.
Julia: Describe an average Chapter Gathering for you.
Beth: We typically meet at a restaurant that serves a lot of farm to table food and is conveniently located. We start off with a half an hour of socializing, then get to the meat of the topic. Sometimes we have guest speakers and sometimes we just compare notes on the topic and pull from the resources on the Savvy Women’s Alliance website. We spend a couple of hours chatting over dinner and drinks about our topic. It’s always a really fun night out! We’re starting to go on a few “field trips” to some great locations. I already mentioned the Worm Ladies and we’re also talking about going to visit the dump and the waste water treatment facility.
Julia: How do you market your Chapter and generate interest in the Savvy Women's Alliance and your Gatherings?
Trina: At our local Gatherings we start the night with talking about who and what Savvy is, why you would want to join us, and what you receive when you join. We also end each night with an opportunity for attendees to join right then and there, and direct them where to go. We use the event page on Savvy’s website and share our Facebook page and encourage our members to do the same. We also create events on our regular Facebook page to draw people in to learn more. On the Facebook event page, we ask for guests to become members and usually draw them in by letting them know that we are doing a challenge on our Providence page or our sharing our thoughts from the last meeting. We also use Meetup.com as a way to get outside of our circle of friends and invite others to come and learn more. We will also be utilizing our press releases that are created in the Savvy Café to advertise with local news sources.
Julia: What makes your specific Chapter special?
Beth: We try hard to meet people where they are on their journey and to recognize the unique skills and knowledge that our members bring. One of our members is a minimalist working towards living a zero waste lifestyle. She was a guest speaker at our Gathering on minimalism. We also try to tie in what happens at our Gatherings to what we’re doing on our chapter page. For instance, after our minimalism event, we posted a challenge on our Chapter page. Lastly, the venue where we usually meet is gorgeous! It’s a restaurant that Trina’s aunt and uncle own called The Dorrance in downtown Providence. It was a Federal Reserve, and it is a beautiful location. It makes our meetings feel special.
Julia: What kind of an impact do you foresee your Chapter having on your community, members of your Chapter, etc.
Trina: On a smaller scale, I foresee women leaving our Gatherings feeling empowered, ready to take on something new they have learned, and ready to share what they’ve learned with others. These small impacts lead to larger impacts within their homes, their neighborhoods, and beyond. On a larger scale, I envision us creating large events like cleanup days, health and wellness events, large learning events at the water treatment plant and Resource Recovery and making changes in Congress. As we all know, there is strength in numbers and I cannot wait to see our Chapter become a driving force for change in RI.
Julia: What advice do you have for those interested in beginning their own Savvy Women's Alliance Chapter?
Beth: As Trina already mentioned, find people to start a chapter with you! It’s all about building a community, so why try to run it alone? Find one or more people to help you run your chapter. Also, plan enough events from the beginning to make it worthwhile to your members with a lot of diversity in subject matter. Make sure you utilize the tools that Savvy Women’s Alliance offers to promote your Gatherings. You are not alone! Take advantage of the Chapter Ambassador calls and the Chapter Ambassador page on the website.