By Ukee Washington

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It all started with an idea spread through email. It ended with strangers feeding hundreds of people and dozens of charities.

It looks like a typical church dinner inside the First Unitarian Church in Center City, but these dishes come with pitches. Pitches from entrepreneurs, not in business, but for charity. This is Philly Stake, where everyone has a stake in the outcome.

Theresa Rose and a group of volunteers started Philly Stake in September 2010. It was a simple idea: Organize a homemade dinner and sell tickets. The money goes in a pot. During the meal, the diners read and hear about community projects, then vote.

“The winners then receive the proceeds from that dinner, and they can then take the proceeds to realize their project,” said Rose.

“So much of fund raising happens in a top-down structure where there are a few people with money that control who gets it,” said David Kyu, another volunteer, “and I was really interested in the democratic model.”

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Volunteers organize a Philly Stake dinner about three times a year, raising a few thousand dollars each time. They ask for at least $10 a ticket, but you can pay more to sweeten the pot.

“It’s so hard to get grants. It’s so hard to get funding for your work,” volunteer Hannah de Keijzer said. “I love that people can come with a wonderful idea that’s connected to the community and walk away with money to get their project off the ground.”

On this night, diners heard proposals from a poet who wants to reach young people, an idea for free yoga for teens, and fresh food vouchers for the poor.

“So it feels really good to be someone who can help make that happen,” said volunteer Mira Adornetto.

And it’s all for the price of dinner.

The poet and the yoga idea each won grants. So far Philly Stake has held eight events raising more than $11,000. The next Philly Stake dinner will be held June 23 at Bartram’s Garden, 5400 Lindbergh Boulevard, Philadelphia. To find out more, go to

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Ukee Washington