Houston wine expert joins fight against domestic violence

- Antonio Gianola of Houston is one of the most well-respected wine experts, or sommeliers, in the city.

"It’s something I’ve always been fascinated with. There’s something always to learn," he said.

He’s worked with some of the area’s best chefs pairing wine and food. Now, he manages Houston Wine Merchant.

However, 11 years ago, he also felt a new calling when domestic violence impacted a close family member.

"My wife’s sister lived with us for just over a year. She tried to break her own cycle of domestic violence. Unfortunately, she went back to her husband and her abuser," he explained.

He says he felt crushed when she returned to her abuser. But he turned his heartbreak into action, joining the local non-profit Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse or AVDA.

"It was because we couldn’t help her. I wanted to try and help somebody," he added.

Since joining AVDA, he’s been a volunteering his time and talent at the organization’s annual fundraiser, the Home Safe Home Gala, as a sommelier.

"If you tell you tell people what your passions are and find a charity that speaks to you, it will click," Gianola told FOX 26.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men in the U.S. will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. The non-profit Safe House estimates 3 million children will witness the abuse in their homes every year.

"It touches more people than you realize. That’s why I’ve stayed with [AVDA] all these years," he said. "Their children go on to find abusive relationships because that is the cycle of love that they know. Unfortunately, that’s not really love, but that’s what they’re used to."

While, Gianola still hopes to find a way to help his sister-in-law, he knows through his support for AVDA he is helping someone else.

"You can’t help everybody but if you help one person. You are slowly changing the world," he concluded.

The Home Safe Home gala is Wednesday October 17.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

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