Earlier this month, more than 70 Chicago restaurants raised more than $18,000 for the city’s oldest domestic violence shelter in an unprecedented effort. The first Chicago Industry Night For Domestic Violence brought together 73 area restaurants for a May 2 event. Restaurants donated a portion of the day’s sales to Connections for Abused Women and Their Children (CAWC), a group that provides support services for domestic violence victims including helping them get jobs, paying court fees, and helping them heal mentally and physically.
CAWC has been around for 41 years. Daniella Caruso, a veteran Chicago server, spearheaded the fundraiser. She co-owns Funkenhausen, the West Town restaurant where her husband, Mark Steuer is the chef/owner. The fund-raising tally, as of Tuesday morning with two restaurants missing from the amount, was $18,334. Participants included all three locations of Emporium Arcade Bar; Kumiko, the fancy West Loop cocktail bar; and Galit, the modern Middle Eastern/Israeli restaurant in Lincoln Park.
The campaign’s success continues to impress CAWC Executive Director Stephanie Love-Patterson. Not only did the event promote discussion among diners during their meals, but it also prompted restaurant owners to better educate themselves in spotting employees who may be victims. The next step is to better understand how to support and listen to abused workers.
Love-Patterson embarked on a West Town restaurant crawl the day of the event. She started at Funkenhausen and also visited Bar Biscay and Flo. She saw restaurant owners had posted informational flyers inside women’s bathroom stalls with tear-aways featuring CAWC’s phone number. This provides a discreet way for victims to seek counseling.
“This initiative did more than just raise dollars for organization — which is incredibly important — but also it’s important that we spark conversations about domestic violence and what better place than around the dinner table?” Love-Patterson said.
Caruso heard that May 2 turned out to be one of the busiest nights for many restaurants. Owners have told her they want the fundraiser to become an annual occurrence. Love-Patterson, Caruso, and CAWC development director Alexa Markoff have already talked about next year’s event. They hope to get more restaurants involved and bring in more participants from the South Side and even suburban Evanston. If restaurant owners are disappointed that they weren’t able to participate this year, Caruso urges them to reach out so they could join in future endeavors.
But between now and 2020, whenever next year’s fundraiser will take place, CAWC and Caruso know that they have continue to spotlight domestic violence. They’re talking about conducting trainings and other events. There are other opportunities, CAWC has an October rally, for members of the restaurant industry to participate.
“CAWC and I are in talks about creating a plan to better educate the restaurant industry community so moving into next year we will be more prepared and thorough,” Caruso said.