Our community is looking forward to having an Olive Garden Restaurant, which in 2004, had $4.1 million in annual sales per restaurant, and yet cannot fund a domestic violence shelter. Our local shelter closed due to lack of financial support. Shame on us.About a year ago, our domestic violence (and sexual assault) shelter closed its doors for good due to lack of funding. The shelter had hung in there for a few months prior, thanks to the dedicated employees who kept the facility running despite not receiving a paycheck for several months. But it was just not possible to run the shelter without income. The shelter had received some grants, but it was not enough to keep the program going.
Our community is one of mainly blue collar workers and we have a very high unemployment rate due to the closing of our largest businesses. It is also an area where there is a high incidence of the "boys will be boys" mentality so many turn a blind eye to the problem of domestic violence. Thus, ours is a community with a desperate need for some type of sanctuary for victims of violence (which are typically women and children).
So I hope you can understand my outrage and anger over the upcoming and much anticipated opening of another chain restaurant. Our community is not lacking an Italian restaurant. In fact, we have at least three very good, locally owned Italian restaurants. Money is tight here and yet the chain restaurants are flourishing.
In addition, our city and outlying areas have the highest overweight and obesity incidence in the state. The LAST thing we need is a restaurant where a typical dinner entrée has 800 or more calories. The Pork Milanese has 1510 calories, with 87 grams of fat. And this is before adding a salad, a beverage, and a dessert. Just the Pork Milanese has more calories than many people should eat in an entire day. So having another restaurant, especially one with high calorie, high fat fare, is really the last thing we need.
Some may argue that a new restaurant creates jobs. Well, yes, but most of the money earned by the restaurant will leave the community. But having a shelter will create jobs in the community, as well. It will employ administrators, clerical staff, counselors, and a variety of caregivers, plus it will make for a healthier community all around.
Not spending any money on nonessentials during the Lenten season really makes me aware of how much money is spent on frivolous items while vital programs are being cut. Because going out to eat is not essential and yet having a safe haven for the most vulnerable is, I find my blood boiling. If a community cannot afford to support local programs, I feel that they definitely cannot afford to eat at the Olive Garden (or any other restaurant). Go home and make a nice healthy plate of beans and rice, served with a side of steamed broccoli. And if you had been inclined to eat out (and actually could afford it), donate the extra money to a worthy cause instead.