Sheila Bracy, Executive Director of Women Empowered, stumbled on a unique idea for her March 8 fundraiser. “Zephrus is offering a wonderful opportunity for Women Empowered to celebrate International Women’s Day with its supporters and to raise money for our program.” Dinner this Sunday is open to the public, and 20 per cent of the proceeds go to Women Empowered.

Susie Goldstein of Zephrus explains her program. “I contacted all the non-profits in the donors collaborative on January 1. We have the same goal: to make the Vineyard a healthy, happy place to live, and what’s better than breaking bread together?”

She adds, “We want to use their (non-profit) base to generate keeping the lights on Main street. We like to stay open in winter. When Main street goes dark, it breaks down the community, and we become too insular. We’re reaching out.” On a selected night, a non-profit invites guests as well as the public to dine at Zephrus. Twenty per cent of that night’s gross goes to the non-profit. It is Vineyard Haven, so it’s BYOB.

Women Empowered is a community-based non-profit that plans to take advantage of the Zephrus deal this Sunday. As Ms. Bracy says, the dinner will raise funds and increase “awareness of our services to the community.”

Christine Williams, a Women Empowered facilitator since 2004, sees her role as a coach: “...being there to support, without telling people what to do.” She encourages clients to articulate their life goals by identifying problems which can be solved.

“We had a client who wanted to resolve credit card debt,” she says. “She was impatient, but as we talked it became clear she had a deficit in organization skills, didn’t open her mail and didn’t know the size of her debt.” Ms Williams says it only took a little coaching for the client to figure out how she got herself into this situation. “Actually, we let them talk to themselves, to come to grips with their issues,” she says. “You need to know how to stop doing things that get in the way.”

Whether the life-skills deficit is money management, finding a job or dealing with a scurrilous spouse, Women Empowered facilitators listen. Ms. Williams described a client whose boss was abusive. “We rehearsed her approach to the boss, accomplished it, and she could move on.”

Women Empowered is client driven. The service is free. Coaches are neither therapists nor financial advisors, but offer a practical approach or referral to an appropriate agency.

As a nonprofit dependent on fundraising to meet office expenses, the Sunday night dinner at Zephrus is a smart option for Women Empowered to raise dollars from diners and spread the word about their unique service.

Zephrus also contributes to the Island Food Pantry. Proceeds from a dessert dish called “As American as Apple Pie,” which sells for $12, generated donations of over $500 to the Pantry.

Another non-profit that utilizes the Zephrus program is Island Grown Initiative. Since mid-January IGI supporters dine on Wednesday nights, and plan to continue well into the spring. IGI’s Executive Director Ali Berlow calls Zephrus Chef Robert Lionette “the ultimate food geek.”

“Chef Lionette has created some delicious meals and shown we can do more with our product.” The Chef purchases an Island cow and proceeds to use the various cuts of meat, as well as sausage and stock. “His challenge is how to pay a fair price and show you can use it. We call it ‘nose to tail’ eating.” Chef Lionette works with Island grown food that is dehydrated, dried, reduced or foraged. Recently he substituted oxeye daisies for capers as an accent piece.

Anyone is welcome at the Wednesday feasts. Ms. Berlow says, “His menu reflects his integrity with affordability.” Vegetarians appreciate Chef Lionette’s farro based risotto, his gnocchi dumplings and squash soups. As Ms. Berlow observes, “This is a vibrant year-round ‘hungry’ community.”

In this fluctuating economy IGI has to assume a diversified approach to fundraising. “We’re a non-profit to support farmers. Zephrus is a restaurant that buys locally to support the year-round community. It’s very interconnected,” says Ms. Berlow. “You get to eat your support!”

Chef Robert Lionette is excited about his Zephrus program. “We try to make winters fun and interesting at the restaurant.” Zephrus supports Island raised foods. “That has informed our menu,” he says. “Finding fun things to do is consistent with a focus on real Island food. This model made sense.”

The Chef expands his thoughts. “The Island can feed itself with a little effort. The influence of weather on food is real, whether we harvest from the land or sea.” He speaks of the challenge to relearn to fill our pantry, with pickled onions or native jellies, as well as cured hams, bacon and sausage. “We want to keep it fresh in January, February and March, keep it interesting. This program is a great way to think outside the box.”

Chef Lionette believes his program unites the needs of a wide range of groups. “We’re very fortunate,” he says. “We have a mutual interest and mutual benefit. The plan is to keep it simple. It doesn’t require a lot of input from the organization, so it was easy to get it going.”

Of the 20 per cent program, Tara Rose, who runs the front of Zephrus, says, “It’s been great; a nice opportunity to reach out to the community. The nonprofit has a place to gather. The IGI dinner has been quite a success as the ingredients are all local. We really enjoy doing it.”

Amanda Adams, an administrator at the Charter School, spoke glowingly of the Students for International Travel dinners held at Zephrus. Over a hundred people attended the two functions, one with a Mexican theme, the other Italian. Students travelers waited table. “There’s nothing like having teenagers as wait servers,” says Ms. Adams.

The Martha’s Vineyard Museum plans a Zephrus dinner in April. The theme is weather, whether it will be augmented by Mark Alan Lovewell’s photographs, honor the first Vineyard weather station at the Mansion House, or present a stormy meal. “With the Museum, we hope to come up with some thematic old menus from a hundred years ago,” says the Chef.

Zephrus is open to the public this Sunday evening March 8 from 5 to 8 p.m. In addition to the regular menu, a couple of special dinners are available. Reservations are suggested, but not necessary. For details, call 508-696-8880 or 508-693-3416; or visit