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Lakewood Ranch woman forms new chapter of Together Women Rise

Potlucks for a Purpose brings women together to learn about gender inequality.

Women discuss Too Young to Wed, an organization dedicated to ending child marriage globally, during a Potlucks for a Purpose meeting.
Women discuss Too Young to Wed, an organization dedicated to ending child marriage globally, during a Potlucks for a Purpose meeting.
Photo by Liz Ramos
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Watercrest’s Kristina Skepton stood back and admired the various Kenyan foods sitting on her dining room table. 

There was tomato and onion salad, potatoes with peas, Kenyan bean and corn salad, barbecued meat on the street, coconut macaroons and more. 

Each of the dishes were brought by women to participate in Skepton’s chapter of Together Women Rise called Potlucks for a Purpose. 

Together We Rise is a national nonprofit dedicated to achieving global gender equality. The nonprofit provides grants to organizations that empower women and girls in low-income countries.

The dishes are a way for the group of women to learn about the country in which the Together Wise Rise grant recipient is making an impact. 

“(The food) adds a powerful component because even the dinner affirms how these women have their favorite dishes, and then we’re eating those dishes,” Skepton said. “It adds to the immersive experience.”

Skepton said that as Potlucks for a Purpose meets, more women will join and want to make a difference.

Watercrest's Kristina Skepton shares facts about Kenya as she leads a meeting of Potlucks for a Purpose, a new Lakewood Ranch chapter of Together Women Rise.
Photo by Liz Ramos

She joined Together Women Rise eight years ago when she was introduced to the organization through the chapter in Sarasota. 

“I was hooked from the moment I went,” Skepton said. “It’s helping women and children, which I have a heart for that. One of the things I love about it is it was an easy way to feel like I was making a difference.” 

Skepton said the nonprofit doesn’t require a minimum donation or attendance at meetings. She was inspired by the “normal people” who would start organizations to make a difference in countries across the world. 

Skepton said going to the meetings made her quickly realize how lucky women are in the U.S. 

“As much as we have our challenges, we don’t have to face some of these very basic challenges women and children are facing around the world,” she said. “I always left with a sense of humility. That was probably the biggest feeling, the eye-opening awareness of the challenges that people face.”

Last year, Skepton was looking for something she could put her passion and energy into after she and her husband, Gene, had finished renovating their home. She decided to go on a three-week trip to Nepal with a group of women through Together Women Rise. During her trip, she visited two schools and a women’s health center.

She had already decided to start her own chapter of Together Women Rise, but it was her trip where she met with grant recipients and women and children who were impacted by the nonprofit that inspired her to start the process of organizing a new chapter in Lakewood Ranch. 

“My passion and enthusiasm (to start a chapter) accelerated tenfold at that point,” Skepton said. “Because we were all Together Women Rise members, we were kindred spirits right from the get-go. Everyone clicked immediately. It was magical. We still all communicate. Friendships were formed.”

She said meeting women and children impacted by the grant recipients was humbling. She said everyone she met in Nepal was appreciative and grateful for the work Together Women Rise has done. 

“I seriously feel like I was born to do this,” Skepton said. “The teacher in me, I love to entertain, socialize, it brings together everything that matters to me. It gives me a sense of power in a world that has a lot of problems and I can often feel powerless. It provides an opportunity to feel like I’m making a difference.”

Skepton’s chapter met for the first time in January and has been meeting monthly with between 10 and 12 women participating in Potlucks for a Purpose each month. 

Kenyan bean and corn salad (Githeri)
Photo by Liz Ramos

The March 22 meeting started with time to socialize and meet other members before Skepton had everyone come together to introduce themselves and introduce Too Young to Wed, the grant recipient, and Kenya, the country for the month.

The group then moved around the table and each person talked about the dish they brought to the potluck before everyone ate while watching videos of Kenya and discussing the food and other topics. 

After dinner, Skepton went on to share facts about Kenya and show a video of the founder of Too Young to Wed, an organization dedicated to ending child marriage globally. 

The meeting ended with more socializing and an opportunity to donate to Together Women Rise. 

Venice’s Helen Crouse joined Potlucks for a Purpose to meet new people while supporting a good cause. 

“I was very excited about it because of the camaraderie and the fellowship that’s involved,” Crouse said. “I enjoy learning about all the different countries and the inequality women go through.”

Crouse has enjoyed trying the various dishes people have made using recipes they found on the Together Women Rise website that represent the country they’re learning about that month. 

“We get to try different foods from different cultures in different countries,” she said. “Everything’s been delicious. So far, everybody’s just knocked it out of the park when it comes to stuff like that. I think people enjoy sharing their dishes and there’s a little bit of pride as well.”



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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