Menbe Aklilu revives Mother’s Day luncheon for domestic violence survivors

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Menbe Aklilu revives Mother’s Day luncheon for domestic violence survivors
Supervisor John Gioia and Menbe Aklilu (Photo courtesy of Supervisor Gioia's Office).

By Kathy Chouteau

Menbere Aklilu (Menbe), former owner of Salute E Vita Ristorante in the Richmond Marina, is known for opening her heart to domestic violence survivors, and now, she is also opening her home.

The local philanthropist and Ethiopian immigrant, who is a domestic violence survivor herself, is opening the doors of her home on Sandpiper Spit in Point Richmond Sat., May 7 for the “Yes, You are Worthy” Mother’s Day brunch for 50 moms from Richmond’s Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP) family shelter and the Berkeley Elisabeth Transition Home.

Earlier Saturday, Menbe and her husband, Pastry Chef Jean-Yves Charon, will treat mothers to “some pampering” at the Beauty By Nature Hair Salon in Point Richmond and then chauffeur them to their home for the brunch.

According to a statement from the philanthropist, the event aims to “empower mothers, single or married, to be the best that they can be for both the success of their family and themselves.”

When she owned her restaurant, Menbe hosted similar Mother’s Day events as “a glimmer of hope for mothers in need,” and also as a way of “paying it back,” according to the statement. Years ago, after fleeing an abusive marriage, Menbe faced her own dire situation: she was pregnant and homeless in Rome, Italy and was taken in by the Mother Theresa Shelter, where she eventually safely gave birth to her son.

After a pause on her restaurant’s Mother’s Day events after its closure—but not on her local philanthropy—Menbe is poised to revive her longstanding tradition for local mothers facing their own challenging situations.

“Before, I invited them to my restaurant, but now, they are coming to my home as friends,” said Menbe, who said that guests will be seated at a beautifully set table, just she would entertain her nearest and dearest.

Lending an assist during the Yes, You are Worthy Mother’s Day brunch will be Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt and other local leaders who will pitch in as servers.

Community members can also help Menbe’s charitable efforts by making a tax-deductible donation to The Menbe’s Way Fund, a donor-advised fund program managed by the Richmond Community Foundation. Click here to learn more.