By Alyssa Weston
Gals That Brunch Youngstown is bringing women together once a month to eat delicious food and, more importantly, to support each other and the community.
Gals That Brunch is a limited liability company with over 55 chapters. The Youngstown chapter began November 2019.
“Our mission is to create a positive, authentic and empowering atmosphere where women can connect with each other and find community within their city,” according to galsthatbrunch.com.
However, the Youngstown chapter is taking it a step further by using the monthly gathering as an opportunity to support local businesses and philanthropies.
Katy Haybarger and Jessica Irwin, the Gals That Brunch Youngstown leaders, met while working as nurses in the ICU. Together, they were inspired to start a social platform where people can connect.
“Gals That Brunch has a very simple mission: to connect with women over brunch. Jess and I have taken it just a step further, and we’ve added philanthropic aspects to every brunch. So, every month we give to someone in need or some kind of an organization within our community,” Haybarger said.
February’s Gals That Brunch Youngstown gathering was hosted at Homestead Kitchen & Cocktails in Columbiana. All tickets to the brunch included four courses with an alcoholic drink for each course, and proceeds benefited Trees for a Change in honor of the late nature-lover Kyle Bullen who died by suicide last year.
“If you look in literature, there’s so many metaphors with nature and humanity, especially within trees. We thought it was a beautiful way to spark a conversation on mental health and suicide prevention,” Irwin said.
Gal’s That Brunch Youngstown events strive to exceed the expectations of a typical Sunday brunch with live piano and cello performances, a photo booth and speakers.
Speakers included Nicole Ranttila, a clinical psychologist, and Brandi Booth, a local musician who shared her struggle with mental illness through spoken-word poetry.
February’s event hosted local vendors including Lia Andreatta Massage, Glitter Galore at Tracey Ramun Art Creations, Radio Hoop and Fruit Collective.
In Irwin’s opinion, many don’t realize the wealth of people and resources in the Youngstown area.
“That includes small businesses, restaurants, the arts. It’s just a wealth of people here that we need to tap into more as a Youngstown community,” Irwin said.
Additionally, representatives from Full Spectrum Community Outreach, Help Network of Northeast Ohio and Trees for a Change were at the brunch to provide information to attendees.
“Our mission was to connect women into the back to the community but also in addition to that to create this awareness of all of these local resources that we have,” Haybarger said.
Vince Brancaccio, chief executive officer for Help Network of Northeast Ohio, attended to raise awareness of the 2-1-1 hotline and the resources provided by Help Network of Northeast Ohio for Ashtabula, Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
Help Network of Northeast Ohio takes 400 calls each day and 150,000 calls each year in addition to 750 in-person consultations.
- Jessica Irwin (left) and Katy Haybarger (right) pose for a photo before the Feb. 9 Gals That Brunch event. Photo by Alyssa Weston/The Jambar
“Five people die of suicide each day. In a week, we take anywhere from five to 10 suicide-related calls each day, covering our four counties. In addition, we take 25 to what we call crisis calls,” Brancaccio said.
Help Network of Northeast Ohio also takes 400 information referral calls each day, giving callers information on local resources including mental health, substance abuse, veterans, food, dispute resolution, victims’ assistance, utilities assistance, health, housing, special needs and seniors.
“People who are in crisis, if they can’t find help, they end up giving up hope. And when you give up hope, your next thought is ‘Do I really want to live?’” Brancaccio said. “So we take those 25 calls, and hopefully we can keep them, you know, prevent them from getting to a place where they want to die.”
Haybarger and Irwin encourage Youngstown State University students to get involved, so long as they are over the age of 21.
Next month’s event will take place March 15 at Nova Coffee Co. in Warren. Follow @galsthatbrunchyo on Instagram for ticket information.