Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, New Jersey’s recently lifted shelter-in-place restrictions created a nightmare scenario for domestic abuse. Forced to quarantine with their abusers, many victims literally had nowhere to go. Sadly, that nightmare became a horrifying reality in late April, as Jersey City resident and popular chef Garima Kothari was found brutally murdered at the hands of her partner who subsequently took his own life.
Sarah Ripoli, a Hoboken resident and entrepreneur, has herself dealt with the tragedy of losing a loved one to domestic violence. Hearing of Kothari’s death, Ripoli opted to donate 25% of the proceeds from her fashion brand, Angel Energy, to Hudson County domestic violence support provider Women Rising, in honor of the late restaurateur.
The food media paid scant attention to the Indian-born chef and restaurant owner Garima Kothari when she was alive. That lack of coverage has extended to her tragic death https://t.co/SLAfTqyoOM
— Eater (@Eater) May 3, 2020
“Living in Hoboken, so close to where Garima was murdered in Jersey City, I was overwhelmed with sadness after hearing about her passing,” said Ripoli. “After learning more about what happened and researching Garima, I couldn’t help but think how similar she was to my mother who lost her life the same way. Both driven women in their career paths, with so much knowledge and light to give the world. Each in a marriage that appeared successful from the outside but was deadly behind closed doors. The similarities of their stories highlight one very important thing, they both lived a life with invisible bruises.”
Each month, Ripoli’s Angel Energy brand donates to a specific cause.
“I selected Women Rising as our May charity for two important reasons,” said Ripoli. “First, in honor of Garima Kothari, as she was a Jersey City small business owner and a Hudson County resident. Second, to give back to an area that was heavily affected by Covid-19. Although quarantine may be coming to an end, the financial hardships that follow can increase the likelihood of domestic violence.”
On May 9, Angel Energy also hosted a virtual workout class with local Hoboken fitness coach @shelby_sweats through Zoom. “Everyone who attended the event was free to donate as little or as much as they would like to take the class, all of which was donated to Women Rising,” said Ripoli. “It was a great way to come together as a community and raise money for an important cause – all while safely social distancing.”
The fundraising initiative for Women Rising spanned the month of May. For June, ANGEL ENERGY has partnered with Miss NJ USA, Gina Mellish, to launch a capsule collection. Proceeds from this partnership will go to another New Jersey-based domestic violence support group, 180 Turning Lives Around.
“Even though I never had the opportunity to meet Garima personally, I felt a sense of guilt that the Angel Energy message wasn’t able to reach her in time,” said Ripoli. “I don’t know if this would have changed the outcome of anything, but at least Garima would know that she wasn’t suffering in silence alone.”