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Speed dating for a good cause launches in Portland

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Speed dating for a good cause launches in Portland

PORTLAND — April LaFrance noticed what many members of the city's young adult population have come to accept as a depressing truth in an otherwise fabulous town: the dating scene leaves much to be desired.

"I have a lot of single friends and found that it is especially difficult to meet people in Maine," LaFrance said. The gripe comes from her female and male friends, she said, but there seem to be more single, successful, attractive women who can't find a suitable date.

"I've always been a bit of a matchmaker, but I wanted to do this on a bigger scale," said LaFrance, who is married.

So she created WeClick, an "ethical" speed dating service aimed at 25- to 35-year-olds.

LaFrance began researching speed dating in November, and attended a few events in Boston with some single girlfriends. All the events took place at bars.

"I thought a softer social atmosphere might be better," she said.

Having done volunteer work overseas, LaFrance also wanted to incorporate a charity component into WeClick and decided a part of each $20 event participation fee will go to a charity helping impoverished communities; hence, the "ethical" component. The first events will benefit Heifer International, an organization that supplies goats and other animals to impoverished families overseas.

WeClick speed dating events will happen at coffee shops in Portland and Lewiston, and are targeted at various age and interest groups. On July 9, for example, there is a "college grads" event taking place at The Works Cafe on Temple Street. Men ages 22 to 32 are invited to attend, as are women ages 21 to 29.

There are also "single professional" events aimed at older daters, "Christian singles" and an "outdoor enthusiasts" group. WeClick groups capture ages ranging from 21 to 55.

At each event, female participants will be seated at a table. The men will rotate from table to table, stopping at each for a five-minute conversation. The man and woman indicate if they are interested in each other on cards that are given to the hostess at the end of the event. If both show interest, they are sent each other's contact information.

LaFrance, a mother and part-time office manager for her husband's construction company, Heritage Fine Homes, said her research found that unlike Internet dating services, face-to-face encounters allow people to react to each other's body language and tone.

"Lots of my friends have tried Match and eHarmony and it hasn't worked for them," she said. "This gives you five minutes of uninterrupted conversation, and research says you make up your mind in the first five minutes of meeting someone."

The WeClick Web site, weclickdating.com, provides a list of upcoming speed-dating events and information on how the service works and the charities that will benefit. 

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net