On the Town: Soroptimists seek to raise awareness on trafficking

“Human Trafficking 101” was the controversial subject addressed at the Glendale Soroptimists’ buffet luncheon last Thursday.

In the past, the topic was confined to members only, but Soroptimist President Paula Devine believed the issue should be open to the public to raise awareness of human trafficking. “Nobody else is [raising awareness],” she said.

The Oakmont Country Club was the setting for a record-breaking attendance of some 75 members and guests.

The heart of the program began with the introduction of guest speaker Renee Marshall by member Miryam Finkelberg. Marshall is training manager for the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking.

No pretty statistics in this presentation, only ugly ones. According to Marshall, 35.8 million people are enslaved in the world today, contributing to a $32-billion industry. Also worldwide, 70% of females are trafficked compared to 30% of men. Sex trafficking accounts for 60% of the trafficking. Labor trafficking accounts for 40%.

In the United States, 14,500 to 17,500 men, women and children are trafficked annually. In Los Angeles County, trafficking occurs primarily in agriculture, restaurants, motels and hotels. Victims come from countries including Mexico, the Philippines, Southeast Asia, Korea, Thailand and China.

Marshall’s organization was founded in 1998 in response to the El Monte sweatshop case in which 72 Thai immigrants were kept in slavery and debt bondage.

During the Soroptimist luncheon program, a $150 check was presented to Devine and Marshall to promote trafficking awareness. The check was donated by Holy Family High School Principal Nancy O’Sullivan on behalf of 110 young female students who collected the funds at the school.

Another Glendale connection is Tahnee Lightfoot, who is helping to spread awareness of human trafficking via the Glendale Police Department. Lightfoot, introduced at the luncheon, is the department’s public information officer. She plans to supplement a police program, already in place, with more officer training.

For more information about human trafficking, visit www.laborrights.org.

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On a lighter note, Cheeseburger Week in Pasadena is always good for adding a few extra calories. But what fun doing it. On a recent Sunday, La Crescenta residents Suzette Van Sleeuwen, son Erik Van Sleeuwen, nephew Rick Rands and dad, Rich Rands, bellied up to the counter at Pie ‘n Burger to sample the burgers.

Pie ‘n Burger, known for its comfort food served within a decor of Formica and stools, was one of 40 Pasadena restaurants offering burgers and any other dish customers desired.

Bigwigs at the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce consider the cheeseburger as having put Pasadena on the culinary map. In 1924, chef Lionel Sternberger’s grill-top error at Pasadena’s Rite Spot began the story documented by the Los Angeles Times and other publications. Even producers at CNN vouch for its veracity.

Today, Sternberger’s mistake is celebrated by burger fans far and near. Former Pasadena resident Cecelia Walker, now of Glendale, was willing to break her New Year’s dieting resolution for the hardy fare at Pie ‘n Burger. She chose the $10.95 combination plate of cheeseburger, fries and a Coke to contribute her part in making the week a success.

Other restaurants getting in on the action included Green Street Restaurant, El Portal, Lucky Baldwin’s and Whole Foods Market.

An added gimmick — burger customers voted for their favorites. Pie ‘n Burger was a winner in three categories — first prize in “Favorite Traditional Cheeseburger” and two second places in “Favorite Lunch Counter Burger” and “Favorite Turkey Burger.”

When stopping by the restaurant, be sure and ask for Mary Ann.

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RUTH SOWBY RANDS may be reached at ruthasowby@gmail.com.

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