Women Against Abuse holds its 15th annual Dish It Up fundraiser
This women’s chef competition is the organization’s largest event done to fund its efforts to aid abuse survivors across the Philadelphia area.
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On Wednesday, May 17, Women Against Abuse hosted its 15th annual Dish it Up event, a women’s chef competition that spotlights the culinary achievements of female chefs throughout the city.
Women Against Abuse is a Philadelphia based nonprofit that provides aid for those seeking to escape abusive situations. They are also the city’s leading domestic abuse advocate and provider of services for abuse survivors.
Founded in 1977, Women Against Abuse has been providing safe havens for abuse survivors, access to a legal center, transitional housing for survivors with children, a 24-hour citywide hotline, and community education and training for intervention.
The annual Dish It Up event is one of the primary ways the organization fundraises for its various services.
Since 2009, Dish It Up has brought in hundreds of community and business leaders from around the region, as well as those interested in the culinary on display, all with the purpose of supporting survivors of abuse.
“Today marks 15 years of bringing people together who are passionate about supporting individuals and families affected by domestic violence at Dish It Up,” said Women Against Abuse Executive Director and President, Joanna Otero-Cruz.
Domestic abuse is a prevalent issue throughout the nation, with one in three women and one in nine men having suffered physical abuse from their partner.
“We are so grateful to see what this event has grown into because it is the one time a year that we come together to raise funds to sustain Women Against Abuse’s lifesaving services,” Otero-Cruz added.
Acting as emcee at this year’s Dish It Up was Valeria Aponte Feliciano, a news anchor for NBC10 and Telemundo62.
This year, 12 contestants took part in the annual competition. With Goya as the chef competition sponsor, each contestant was required to use at least one Goya product in their dish.
In attendance was Rafael Toro, the Director of Public Relations for Goya, who shared his pride in Goya for its partnership with Women Against Abuse.
“We want to keep our people… from becoming victims. We want to train our kids so they can see the red flags so they can stop and they can see when molesters and people these abusers come to them,” Toro said.
Some notable competitors included Christina Martinez of South Philly Barbacoa & Casa Mexico, and Jazmine Serrano of Boricua Restaurant.
Alongside the competition, Women Against Abuse named recipients of two separate honors: their Advocate of the Year, and for the first time ever, a Lifetime Achievement Award.
The naming of Advocate of the Year is an annual recognition, of which this year’s recipient was Dr. Ellyn Jo Waller of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church.
Dr. Waller is an anti-trafficking advocate — an issue that is tied to domestic abuse — and in 2011, she established an anti-trafficking ministry within the Church.
She is presently a participant in international efforts to end human trafficking and has previously worked on Philadelphia’s Anti-Trafficking Coalition as co-chair for their religion committee.
“I believe God allows each of us periods of influence and resources to come alongside others to advocate, to speak up for others, and to help others. And I believe that in this season, God has called me to do this, and I'm excited to receive this great honor. I'm humbled to stand here before you,” Dr. Waller said during her acceptance speech.
Women Against Abuse’s first ever Lifetime Achievement Award was granted to their long time board member, Mark Lipowicz, Esq.
Lipowicz has served on the board for nearly 30 years, working as an assistant district attorney to prosecute rape cases, alongside his work with Women Against Abuse.
“What I've learned over these almost 30 years is that Women Against Abuse, simply put, saves lives. But there's more to do,” Lipowicz said during his acceptance speech.
He continued to discuss the vital nature of the work done by the nonprofit, such as keeping its doors open and services running throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, during which Lipowicz saw reports of domestic violent murders double from 2020 to 2021.
This year’s Purple Dish Winner was Gloria Clarke of Rosa Mexicano, as Justine MacNeil of Fiore was in turn named the Purple Dessert Winner for the second year in a row.
Over the course of the event, Women Against Abuse were able to raise more than $230,000 for their services; the largest ever raised through their Dish It Up fundraiser.