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Cooking up charity at New South Cafe
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Sarahlyn Argrow has first-hand experience with hardship. Separated from her abusive husband, she found herself rearing five daughters on her own.

For a while they were homeless, and even when they had a home, it wasn’t permanent. “We moved around quite a bit,” Argrow says.

Through hard work and tenacity, Argrow pulled her family through the crisis. She also founded a non-profit organization called AWWIN - A Working Woman In Need, and today is its executive director.

“It’s an organization designed to assist single working women,” Argrow says. “It came from the experiences I went through as a single working woman.”

AWWIN, Inc. was founded in August 2000. Argrow turned to the community organizations and agencies that helped her and her family and worked with them to develop a collaborative partnership to help other women.

More than 400 families have been helped by AWWIN so far. The participants of the program have been displaced for a variety of reasons, including divorce, illness, domestic violence and temporary loss of employment.

Many of the women have families that look to them for shelter, food and clothing. Because they often work in low-paying jobs, they live paycheck to paycheck, sometimes finding themselves without money for even basic necessities.

AWWIN works to give these women skills so they can find better jobs. At the heart of the organization is its professional development program. A 30-week session of classes in basic computing, typing and software skills are provided. While AWWIN clients attend classes from February through October, free childcare is provided.

It’s not just classes that are provided. The clients do mock interviews and public speaking to prepare for a real job search.

In addition to classes, AWWIN provides emergency stipends for housing, utility , food and transportation. Donations of clothing are sought so the women can dress professionally as they enter the workforce.

There are some heart-warming success stories. Virginia Clark returned to college after completing the AWWIN program and is now a special education teacher at Garden City Elementary School.

Michelle Glover was a school bus driver when she signed on. Today, she is a dispatch supervisor for First Student bus service.

“We try to inspire them and provide the support they need to reach their goals,” Argrow says. “There are so many obstacles they face. Each setting is different, but they often find a common bond.”

Because it’s a non-profit, AWWIN must continuously work at fundraising. Recently help came from the award-winning chefs of New South Cafe, Matt Cohen and Scott Gordon. They have started a program called Cooking for Charity, which is held on the last Monday of the month to raise money for seven local charities. For $100, participants learn to make such delectables as stuffed quail, shrimp and grits, Pad Thai, barbecue and crab cakes, then are served a gourmet lunch and presented with a certificate.

The benefit for AWWIN was the first in the series, and featured a lesson on cooking crab cakes. “Their goal is to raise $20,000 for charity,” publicist Scott West says. “This little restaurant, this little room, is going to do that.”

Cohen and Gordon have been successful in their restaurant and catering business and want to give back to the community.

“I thought it would take us a year for us to be where we are today,” says Bunny Ware, who handles catering. “Matt is serious about giving back. And AWWIN was a natural fit for us.”

When informed AWWIN was the “guinea pig” for the charity series, Argrow responded that she was delighted. With a laugh, she said, “I like to be the head and not the tail.” ƒç


Upcoming events in the New South Cafe Cooking for Charity are benefits for the USO April 23, which will feature stuffed quail; Horizons May 28, with shrimp and grits; the Old Savannah City Mission June 25, with crab cakes; Rambam School July 28, with Gourmet Kosher; Hospice Savannah Aug. 27, with Pad Thai; and Senior Citizens, Inc. on Sept. 24, with barbecue. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and the cost is a $100 donation. Call 233-7568.