They aren't just a sisterhood or church ministry. Philoptochos is the largest organization of Greek Orthodox women devoted to supporting a variety of charities through their philanthropic work. They are also the second largest women's philanthropic organization in the U.S. in terms of money donated to charitable causes.

With a mission to help "the poor, the destitute, the hungry, the aged, the sick, the unemployed, the orphaned, the imprisoned, the widowed, the handicapped, the victims of disasters," these women work year-round to make a true difference in our community. The local chapter, St. Barbara's Philoptochos Society at St. Paul's Greek Orthodox Church in Savannah, discovered a unique way 15 years ago to raise money for its mission - a food and wine event with international charm.

The Savannah International Food & Wine Tasting has continued to be a successful fundraiser, featuring more than 50 wines professionally paired with small-plate dishes from some of Savannah's best restaurants. This year's event is Feb. 24 at St. Paul's Hellenic Center, 14 W. Anderson St. Guests must be 21 or older.

Participants include Crystal Beer Parlor, Olympia Cafe, Yia Yia's Kitchen, Papa's Bar-B-Que & Seafood, The Chromatic Dragon, Asian River, Catered Creations by LaVon, The Howlin Hound, Sweet Potatoes, Taste of India, Molly McGuire's and Edible Arrangements. Guests can also make a silent bid on a $100 gift basket from Byrd Cookie Co., as well as gift certificate for two free nights valued at $600 from Tybee Vacation Rentals.

While the event has been around for 15 years, Bonnie Danos, president of Philoptochos, says they decided to replace the usual silent auction with the new Mystery Wine Tavern.

Danos explains, "We'll have bottles of wines that range from $10 to $40 that are nicely wrapped. You can purchase the privilege to select bottles from the collection. It's a $10 donation for one and $35 for four."

She says members of the church are donating the wine. "You don't know what you get until you unwrap the bottle, so you'll either break even or leave happy."

Danos adds that their group has designated three charities to benefit from this unique fundraiser: Coastal Center for Developmental Services, Savannah Widows Society and Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Coastal Empire.

Jamie Newman, co-chair of the International Food & Wine Tasting, says they chose these charities because they represent the population of the community that "is important to us."

"We are a small organization, but we sure work hard to make an impact on Savannah. This is our 15th year to do this event and it's our primary fundraiser. Each year we are able to raise about $5,000 and all those funds go straight to charity."

She also says they rely on fundraising to help out others in the community throughout the year.

"If someone comes to our church for help, the request is given to our group," Danos explains. "We help provide as much as we can, from school supplies to Christmas gifts, paying an electric bill - whenever they need anything, they turn to us for help. And it doesn't have to be someone in our parish."

For this event, Newman says the charity is also reciprocated by the businesses in attendance.

"The restaurants are doing this out the goodness of their hearts," she says. "All of these restaurants are donating their food, their time and they are sending their staff to serve. And we are also so thankful for United Distributors and Savannah Distributing Co.; they select the wines and donate to us so we can donate back to everyone else.

"⦠Some of these businesses have been with us since day one, and they continue to come every year."

IF YOU GO

What: Savannah International Food & Wine Tasting

When: 3-6 p.m. Feb. 24

Where: St. Paul's Hellenic Community Center, 14 W. Anderson St.

Cost: $40 in advance at etix.com; $45 at door; 21 and up

Info: 912-236-8256, stpaulsgreekorthodox.org