Lauri and Mark Wierzbicki joined us to talk about the Dining out Against Domestic Violence” event that is taking place on June 8th.
Mark says, “We have gotten great support from Western New York ever since this started. He says we were a little concerned coming out of the pandemic, the restaurant business, how are they doing, can they really handle this, but we started working with Jay Pascarella, and Lucia’s on the Lake and he got together with one of our board members, and they decided it was a good event to do and we started pulsing restaurants and everyone jumped on board and it is going to be June 8th and it is going to be really great.”
There are 50 restaurants participating and a portion of the participating restaurant’s day’s sales will be donated to Rachael Warrior Foundation in the fight against domestic violence that is so prevalent in our community.
Lauri says, “What’s so important for us is the awareness and people who work in the restaurant community, in the business, in the bar, you know they have seen it first time, so they are able to spot something that is going on, so they are able to get help. Our biggest thing is awareness, helping the community keep them safe.
Where does the money go? Mark says, ever since this started in 2019, we have supported the Family Justice Center, we worked with Haven House, they have a program called rebuilding with Rachael where when these people come in, and as they are ready to go back into the world, we provide the beds. They take the beds with them so they have some furniture to go with them and then there is the individuals we get to help. He goes on to say the Family Justice Center will send families to us and we can do things like, a grandmother who is suddenly in charge of two little kids because both parents are out of the picture, she’s in a little house on the East Side and doesn’t have a stove, and we were able to get her a stove.
Mark says the last event we had was at the Hotel Henry and I think that was their last event before the pandemic and we able to, finally after the pandemic, catch up with Haven House and give them a check for $10,000.” He says “they were so thankful.
Lauri says, “the biggest area that needs to be worked on is shelter. We supported a lot of people during the pandemic with shelter, and even since we started our organization, a lot of hotel stays, a lot of that so we are working with Haven House and hopefully with the money we are raising for Dining Out for Domestic Violence that we will build another shelter and it will have my daughter’s name on it.”
They have a new domestic violence pilot program in schools that just launched in their home town of Orchard Park. Lauri says we are getting into the schools which is very exciting. We presented at the Orchard Park high school STAP which is Students, Teachers, Administrators and Parents, and we proposed that we are going to get an education program and it is going to start with the seniors in the Fall. We are going to have an assembly, a challenge day and it is going to move all the way down from the seniors to the elementary school from what’s a good relationship, how to spot a domestic violence and teen violence, what that looks like all the way down to how to be a good friend when you are in an elementary school.”
Mark says it’s eventually supposed to roll out throughout Western New York. The pilot program is happening in Orchard Park, and he says they have gotten great feedback and they’ve got some great people leading the charge for them and it will spread out and hopefully just be part of the regular curriculum like home economics.
Lauri says “during the pandemic the domestic violence numbers have jumped, I mean we saw a recent stat that they went up 181% from 2020 to 2021 and it is the biggest unreported crime, so I feel that the awareness piece that we are sharing and getting out there, I feel that, that is exposing it more. It was very enlightening when we were presenting because you could see the students in the audience and they were looking at each other like this is really good, so I think it is going to be a great program and we are hoping that Western New York, piloted in Orchard Park and move it out to Western New York and hopefully statewide.
List of participating restaurants can be found at RachelWarriorFoundation.org/dining-out