Uninvited guest at ‘Dinner Party’ | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Uninvited guest at ‘Dinner Party’

Susan Wood

Women’s Gifting Circle, aka Original Dinner Party in some circles, has made the rounds in South Lake Tahoe, including the El Dorado County’s District Attorney’s Office.

The phenomenon that’s prevalent in 13 states has taken the basin by storm, also expanding its reach to the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center.

Numerous inquiries made to the Women’s Center prompted Community Educator Lois Denowitz to issue a statement last week restating its mission and denouncing involvement in the circles or pyramids depending on one’s perspective.

“I wanted people to know we certainly were not (involved),” said Denowitz, who approached Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe about the inquiries. “We felt it was important enough.”

By the same token, she understands why one would think the Women’s Center was involved because both groups tout providing a means of empowering women.

However, Denowitz agrees with Uthe the activity that requires the exchange of money to become involved is illegal.

Participants circumvent federal tax law by signing a piece of paper during the exchange that signifies, “this money is a gift freely given.”

But Uthe, the California Attorney General’s Office and other law enforcement agencies cite the state penal code that relates to endless chain schemes whereby a participant pays a considerable sum for a chance of a greater payoff upon introducing others to the chain.

“If it was $50, then we’d probably let it go,” Uthe said.

On the contrary, $5,000 buys a seat at the appetizer level. One cashes in three levels higher. The person at the dessert level receives $40,000 from all eight people at the bottom tier.

Whether law enforcement on the front lines decides to pursue the activity may depend largely on the participants’ level of satisfaction.

The South Lake Tahoe Police Department has received no complaints on the activity from those involved.

Uthe predicts the structures may start collapsing within the month.

“I think a lot of women don’t understand. They’re getting duped from women into thinking it’s benevolent,” South Lake Tahoe resident Kristina Francis said. “Those people on the bottom are going to get screwed. It’s so frustrating. You know the people on top are saying, “Come on board.'”

The 47-year-old woman, who was approached by two women, said she’s concerned her friends are getting involved in a scam that will backfire on them.

Those who get into it see a completely different picture.

“The Women’s Gifting Circle is about giving – not only the monetary gift that’s a part of the circle. That’s secondary. It’s how giving empowers you; how giving simple gifts – like a smile, a book, a flower or a hug can help empower not only yourself in giving it, but also the person receiving the gift,” South Shore resident Jenny Lind said.

Women are not coerced into entering the circle, Lind added.

Lind, who sits at the soup and salad level, points to the transfer of energy in the act of giving as a powerful benefit to involvement.

She plans to continue her giving once she makes the dessert level. She’d like to donate to organizations like the World Wildlife Federation, the National Parks Department and Christian Children’s Fund.

Other participants note the relationships gained as additional benefits in their involvement.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.