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Washington Voices

Girlfriends celebrate by uniting for fun, charity

Thu., Feb. 28, 2013, midnight

On a gloomy February afternoon the lobby of the Magic Lantern Theatre sparkled with laughter, conversation and tiaras.

The Magic Lantern Girlfriends Club had convened to celebrate February birthdays and watch a special screening of “Fried Green Tomatoes.”

For many years a group of friends met monthly in Coeur d’Alene to celebrate birthdays. They bought each other gifts and enjoyed a meal. But Catherine Reynolds, founder of the Magic Lantern Girlfriends Club, said none of the women really needed anything, and the gifts, while nice, seemed superfluous.

When that original group gradually stopped meeting, Reynolds decided to revive the birthday club – but this time with a difference. “I thought instead of buying each other gifts, we could donate $10 to a charity of our choice.”

She found the perfect venue in the Magic Lantern. She could rent the theater for a reasonable rate, the girlfriends could still get together, and any proceeds raised would benefit a local charity.

Reynolds hosted the first event in May. Friends watched the movie “Beaches” and raised cash for Ronald McDonald House.

It proved to be a hit and the Magic Lantern Girlfriends Club took off. Melinda Travis hasn’t missed a gathering. “Catherine always has good ideas,” she said. “It’s really fun. We make off-color remarks during the movie and we sing along!”

At this month’s party, Reynolds greeted the birthday girls and crowned them with tiaras bedecked with pink feathers and twinkling faux gems.

Birthday girl Michele Dirks and her friend Angie Phillips are part of the original core of friends. They both enjoy how the group has evolved. “It’s less about us and more about others,” Phillips said.

Herding a lobby full of chatting women into the theater took some time, but Reynolds persevered. With the crowd finally seated, she introduced Kendra Grabowski.

Grabowski and her family recently launched the Jeremiah Project, this month’s charity of choice. “My daughter Olivia is adopted from Russia,” she explained. While in Russia her heart broke at the sight of all the children who still needed families. “You can’t take them all home.”

Olivia loves to draw, and while looking at her daughter’s artwork, Grabowski decided to use Olivia’s talents to raise money for families hoping to adopt.

They printed notecards featuring artwork by Olivia and other adopted children. The notecards are available online, and Grabowski brought a basketful to the theater as well. “I believe small steps can have a big impact,” she said.

Reynolds asked for a minimum donation of $10 and passed a plastic jar around the room. “Just like church,” she quipped.

She’s delighted that her friends have responded to these parties with enthusiasm and generosity. “We average about $500 per event for the charities,” she said.

As the lights dimmed, Reynolds glanced at the crowd. “I don’t know everyone here,” she said. “Friends invite friends.” And that’s just what she’d hoped. “The idea is gaining momentum.”

Grabowski valued the opportunity to get the word out about the Jeremiah Project. “I appreciate Catherine’s heart,” she said. “She knows women like to get together to have fun, but also give back.”

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