Taste of Burlington County benefits domestic violence efforts
By Mary Stadnyk | News Editor
For 18 years, a successful, fun-filled event has been hosted in Burlington County that involves delicious cuisines provided by local restaurants, an extraordinarily friendly atmosphere and people who truly want to help a worthy cause – domestic violence.
Such was the scene Oct. 10 when some 20 restaurants and nearly 500 guests from the community gathered in The Merion, Cinnaminson, for the 18th annual Taste of Burlington County to benefit Providence House Domestic Violence Services of Catholic Charities.
Established in Burlington County in 1978, PHDVS provides an array of services to victims of domestic abuse and their children free of charge. The comprehensive services include: a 24-hour hotline, an undisclosed emergency safe house, non-residential individual and group sessions in the PHDVS counseling center in Delran, legal advocacy and the PALS (Peace – A Learned Solution) program for children and teenagers who have witnessed domestic violence in their homes.
According to Jean Metz, director of PHDVS, the program assisted 2,376 individuals, 269 of whom took up residency in the emergency safe house for an average of 22 days. The remaining 2,107 individuals received services on an outreach basis, either through PHDVS’ legal advocacy program or one of the counseling programs for adult domestic violence victims or for the children who witnessed the abuse.
Because PHDVS does not want to “add to the domestic violence survivor’s struggles,” Metz said several fundraising events, such as the Taste of Burlington County, are held each year so that “we are able to continue to provide free services to our clients.”
“PHDVS has to raise a significant amount of money, approximately 11 percent, of a $4 million budget, each year to offset the costs not picked up by government grants and Catholic Charities funds,” said Metz.”So we started the Taste of Burlington County event to help balance the budget.” She said this year’s event brought in nearly $57,000, about five percent more than what was raised last year.
Metz said she is pleased with how the Taste of Burlington County has evolved into a popular event over the past 18 years. In 1994, Metz said, there were 75 people in attendance with six restaurants represented, and “with each year since, we gained more experience in running a fundraiser and have been able to increase both the number of vendors and the number of supporters.”
Extending appreciation for the success of the 2012 event, Metz said that “even with a slow economy, our supporters continue to be generous while having a great time and eating good food.”
“We are so grateful to our longtime supporters and the friends they bring to the Taste of Burlington County. We are also extremely grateful to the restaurants that come year after year and donate their incredibly delicious food,” Metz said.
In the coming year, Metz shared that the PALS program is looking to expand its services to include an adolescent component that incorporates education on dating violence, healthy relationships and boundary setting into the program’s creative arts therapies.
“We are eager to make the public aware of this project with the hope that we can get some more teens interested in coming in for services,” Metz said.