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10 Things Paula Haines Can't Live Without

Written by Seth Shanley

In 2013, Paula Haines was busy running a well-established, successful boutique marketing agency in Dublin when something drew her to Freedom a la Cart, a nonprofit social enterprise that empowers survivors of sex trafficking and exploitation to rebuild their lives with freedom and self-sufficiency by offering comprehensive impact services, paid workforce training and a long-term community of peer-based support. To provide job skill training to survivors, a tiny food cart business had been created - which today has blossomed into a thriving box lunch and catering business, employing more than 120 survivors since its inception.

First as a volunteer and then board member, Paula invested more and more of her time, talent, and energies into stewarding the vision and mission of the organization, including the launch of Eat Up! Columbus, an annual fundraising event that has now raised more than $1M for Freedom a la Cart. As the organization struggled with turnover in the Executive Director position, Paula stepped in on a temporary basis in 2016. Her passion, entrepreneurial skills, and leadership were impossible to deny, and the board asked her to assume the position permanently. Based on the response from the community, it was a brilliant decision. Paula was awarded a 2017 Pillar Award as a Nonprofit Executive Director of the Year and was named a Central Ohio Smart 50 Award Honoree for her business leadership. Freedom a la Cart received the 2019 Aspire Social Enterprise of the Year Award, was named Best Caterer in 2019 & 2020 by Columbus CEO Best of Business award, and received the 2020 Nourishing our Community Award from the Ohio Restaurant Association.

On April 5, Paula and her team opened their first Freedom a la Cart Café and Bakery at 123 E Spring Street, open every day but Sunday for breakfast and lunch. The rehabilitated building stands as a beautiful example of the restored survivors for whom the intentionally-designed public and private spaces were built. Eat Up! Columbus 2021 is planned for September 4 and sells out every year. For more information about Freedom a la Cart or Eat Up! Columbus, visit

1. Traveling in our renovated Airstream. My husband, Jerry, and I purchased and renovated a vintage 1988 Airstream motorhome. It’s our happy place! Traveling back roads, exploring small towns, and chatting with locals provides an endless supply of beautiful places to find and enjoy! Having all we need within our Airstream with the open road ahead of us is true freedom!

2. Family. Nothing brings me more joy than time with our five adult children and their families. Dinners together are heaven, but I’ll take phone calls (video preferred) or text messages (with photos, of course). Through COVID, we held weekly family Zoom calls - one of the few things I miss about the pandemic.

3. Razor-sharp chef’s knife. Cooking is how I decompress. Recipes stir my creativity, and the chopping and dicing clears my mind and helps me unwind. Fifteen years ago, my husband gave me a chef’s knife hand-crafted by Joel Bukiewicz of Cut Brooklyn. I use it every day.

4. Breakfast + Lunch at Freedom a la Cart, Dinner at Chapman’s. Meetings over coffee or a meal sustain me - it’s how friendships develop and business ideas are created. Our family opened two restaurants in the past year: Chapman’s Eat Market in German Village (owned by our daughter and son-in-law, Bronwyn and BJ Lieberman) and the Freedom Cafe downtown. It’s been challenging, but so much fun to welcome the community for fellowship over great food.

5. Lakeside, OH. Our family has vacationed at Lakeside Chautauqua on Lake Erie for 30 years, so it holds a special place in our hearts and lives. It’s an environment that’s like stepping back in time, and allows me to slow down, refresh and recharge - spiritually and physically. From fresh donuts at The Patio to Fourth of July parades and fireworks over the lake, now our grandkids are being introduced to the magic of Lakeside and the tradition continues.

6. My Kindle. I Memoirs, historical fiction, adventures, thrillers, business leadership, inspirational - I enjoy it all. According to my Kindle account, last year I read about 50 books. Take my television, but please don’t take my Kindle!

7. Girlfriends. I have so many brilliant women in my life: women of faith who taught me how to be a better mom; my NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) and Vistage friends who mentor me professionally; each of the amazing women of grit + grace I have the privilege to work with at Freedom a la Cart; and my daughter, AnnMargaret, who is my BFF. I can’t live without ALL of them!

8. Farmer’s Markets. Growing up in a small Ohio farm town, I learned the value of fresh, local food and the importance of supporting local business. Since before it was trendy, we’ve been visiting markets and buying our meat and produce from local farmers. We’ve developed wonderful friendships with the purveyors at the Worthington Farmers Market and Pearl Market and always seek out local markets and small businesses on our travels. Buy local. Buy products made in the USA!

9. Tiramisu from Hills Market. It’s my guilty pleasure. Hills only stocks it once a week and it sells quickly. So when you land one, that in itself is a victory. The lady fingers are generously coffee-infused (I think that’s the secret). It’s a slice of heaven!

10. Passion and a Purpose. At 50, I found my passion and purpose when I stepped into the interim executive director role at Freedom a la Cart. Once I found it, I couldn’t walk away! I felt God had used the random skill sets I’d developed, and various experiences in my life, to prepare me to lead the organization. It’s a blessing to live a life of passion and purpose, and for that I’m truly grateful!


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