Georgetown's taste for justice

Food fest helps family center get launched

11/05/2010 12:00 AM

11/04/2010 10:40 PM

On Saturday people will have a chance to sample all the culinary delights that Georgetown has to offer, from seafood to chili to grits.

But the first Taste of Georgetown is about more than food. It's also about raising money.

The Georgetown County Family Justice Center is trying to get on its feet and into its renovated building, said event co-chairwoman Alicia Barnes.

The center would be a "co-location" for all of the agencies that deal with domestic violence, including spousal abuse and elder/disabled abuse, said Barnes.

Nearly half of all calls to local law enforcement agencies are domestic violence-related, said Barnes. In 2009, 31 women were killed as a result of domestic violence in South Carolina, according to the S.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

Barnes said the goal for Saturday's event is to raise the more than $10,000 the group needs to finish renovating its building on Highmarket Street.

"We're hoping to do a soft opening by the end of the year," she said.

The Taste of Georgetown will feature food from more than a dozen Georgetown restaurants, as well as live music and entertainment.

Barnes said the idea for a taste of the town came because "we love our town."

"We're trying to make this a healthy and vibrant community," she said. "There are two reasons for [the event]: one, of course, to raise funds for the family justice center ... and also to bring attention to the wonderful restaurants and retailers in Georgetown."

Ashley Smith of CASE Solutions Advertising, who is helping the organization, said the family justice center will "provide a collaborative community response to victims of domestic violence."

Many times when victims of domestic violence seek help, they have to go through several different organizations, tell their story several times and, in the process, become demoralized, said Barnes.

Smith said at the center "they can just tell their story once."

Barnes said the first family justice center was created in San Diego by domestic violence case prosecutors in 1989.

Now, she said, there are 67 worldwide and more than 130 are in the process of being created, including the Georgetown one.

The Georgetown center is three years in the making and began as a part of the Georgetown League of Women Voters, Barnes said.

Barnes said family justice centers are a hybrid organization: a nonprofit that works with governmental agencies as well as other nonprofits.

But so far the Georgetown center is "grass-roots."

"We're looking to get some governmental buy-in," she said.

Barnes, who saw the effects of domestic violence first-hand growing up, said she thinks this center will help a lot of people in the county.

"What I love about this is it's compassionate and efficient," she said. "It meets the basic needs of 'how do I get away from this' and also the long-term impacts like giving someone an education so they won't be stuck in that situation again."

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