By Kerrigan Peoples
More than 1,500 women are arrested each year in Franklin County on charges of solicitation. Ninety-two percent of them are victims of human trafficking — trafficked since the average age of 13 and left to fend for themselves in a job market that isn’t always accepting. That’s where Freedom a la Cart steps in to help, offering a “safe place of restoration where survivors can heal, learn and grow as they prepare for sustainable employment within our community,” according to the organization’s web site. Freedom a la Cart employs survivors in its kitchen where it offers up “fresh and flavourful cuisine” with a bigger purpose behind it. It’s truly nourishment for the body and the soul alike. We sat down with executive director, Paula Haines, to talk about Freedom a la Cart and their upcoming fundraiser event.
“A lot of survivors have been beaten and are left with a head injury or traumatic brain injury that takes a while to overcome,” said Haines, executive director since 2016. “Many suffer with PTSD, have no transportation because of poverty, have a criminal record or no current work experience. We want to help them overcome that.”
To do it, the organization is raising money and awareness on March 9 with the delicious food and drink lover’s event “Eat Up!”
“Chefs have a competitive side behind closed doors, so it’s time for them to get together to collaborate for a cause,” said Haines. “Maybe show something new they haven’t done before.”
Under the leadership of Chef Jack Moore of Watershed Kitchen & Bar, chefs will collaborate at “Eat Up!” to create a unique culinary experience for guests. Cameron Mitchell appetizers will be served. The evening’s chef team also includes: Jon Olson of The Keep, Tyler Minnis of The Market Italian Village, Laurie Sargent of Purple Sage Bakery, Josh Wiest of South Village Grille, James Anderson of Ray Ray’s Hog Pit, John Reese of Black Radish Creamery, Duncan Forbes of North Country Charcuterie, and Sarah Black of Seminary Hill Farm.
Cocktail hour starts at 6 p.m. and dinner starts promptly at 7 p.m. The evening’s drinks will be prepared by a mixology team led by Grant Bain with United States Bartenders Guild Columbus Chapter, Christina Basham of Middle West Spirits, Cris Dehlavi of M at Miranova, Trey Willis of The Avenue, and Rebecca Monday of AC Hotel by Marriott.
Liz Woolley will bring her female-led band to entertain the guests.
A handful of survivors will attend “Eat Up!” to speak about their experiences and how Freedom a la Cart has changed their lives for the better and stuck by them through the difficult transition into work life to get them where they are now. The organization served 77 survivors in 2018.
“Survivors have an opportunity to open up and really talk about what’s happening to them and what has happened,” said Haines. “It’s a place for them to create things together and spark that creative outlet to get to the next level.”
The event will also feature a live auction of which 100 percent of the funds and donations will go towards Freedom A La Cart’s support services. One of its most cherished support programs is the Butterfly Program, which supports survivors who have graduated from treatment. Statistics show that most of those who have attended treatment will relapse within the first year. The Butterfly Program offers support to help prevent it.
There are many ways to get involved with Freedom’s mission to bring hope to survivors of human trafficking so they can build a new life of freedom and self-sufficiency. For more information on the event as well as how you can support Freedom a la Cart, visit Freedom’s website.