For 29 years, Pasta in the Park has been a rite of the late-summer nonprofit fundraising scene. Teams with creative names, costumes and themes whip up pasta sauces to entice guests to sample and then vote. Lots of bragging rights are on the line, and some years have produced cookbooks.

It’s all in fun but with the serious purpose of benefiting TESSA, the nonprofit with programs to support victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

COVID-19 clamped down on in-person festivities in 2020, and a small event went virtual. TESSA CEO Anne Markley said she had vowed that Pasta in the Park, beneath huge white tents on the lawn at Myron Stratton campus, would return, and it did Aug. 28.

The event was a success, raising more than $100,000 for TESSA, which has added yet another mission working with victims of human trafficking. In just one month, trained advocates had helped more than 50 individuals.

Pasta in the Park’s 14 teams were audience-pleasers. Named the top sauce was “Fans of Fusion,” a team headed by Pikes Peak Community College Culinary Arts Chair Richard Carpenter with instructor chef Heidi Block and student chef Angela McElroy. Helping out with the spicy Italian-Spanish sauce were instructor chefs Michael Paradiso and Gary Hino.

“Look Ma, No Hans” by PSA Worldwide was runner-up and third place went to “Da Pastabilities are Endless” by the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

The evening’s live auction turned into an unexpected comedy routine when Colorado Springs Police Commander and TESSA board member John Koch filled in as last-minute auctioneer. It turned out so well and earned so much money that audience members decided he should change careers.

The serious part of the evening focused on TESSA’s work and a 50% increase in thousands of people needing help, especially during COVID lockdowns.

Said Markley: “Home isn’t necessarily a safe place for everybody.” Police receive between 15,000 and 20,000 domestic violence/sexual assault calls each year. “What can we do to no longer make this a problem?” Markley asked.

Women who had been victimized were featured in a video by Lauren Ferrara Storytelling. One woman’s relationship had gone “from the honeymoon stage to him trying to take my life.”

Another had been incredulous: “How could a strong, powerful woman doing so well in her career become a victim?” Her intimate partner isolated her from friends and family. She was trapped by “the one you wanted to cherish and protect you.” She thought that “maybe if I did everything perfectly,” everything would be OK. Instead, “I went from hell and back and came up the other side,” and today is speaking out to help others.

The Safeline number for anyone needing help or those who know victims is 719-633-3819.

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