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HTAP to hold reception to thank community for 10 years of support

By Staff | Jul 14, 2016

Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships Executive Director Nola Theiss and Art Coordinator Kristen Donovan. MEGHAN MCCOY

A special reception will be held at Cips Place Restaurant later this month to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships as a way to thank the community for its support.

“Ten years is a good time to stop and look back at who made it possible,” HTAP Executive Director Nola Theiss said of Sanibel residents, organizations and businesses. “The event is a thank you to people who helped us.”

The reception will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 23, at Cips Place Restaurant, 2055 Periwinkle Way. The event will include complimentary hors d’oeuvres and wine. A few paintings from the program, ARTREACH, will be on display during the reception and Bailey’s is providing a sheet cake for the celebration.

“We hope to get a good turnout because it would be good to see the people and organizations that have helped us,” Theiss said. “We are in a continuous ask mode and we really want to be in the thank you mode. We want to stop and say thank you.”

Those interested in attending the event are asked to call (239) 415-2635, so Theiss can let Cips know how many will be attending.

After the reception, individuals are welcome to stay for a 6:30 p.m. dinner, featuring a special menu. The $30 dinner includes a salad, entree, taxes and tip. The menu includes a choice of mahi-mahi, salmon, flatiron steak, or vegetable fettuccine with a side of chicken, or fish as options.

Theiss encourages individuals to stay for the dinner and continue to enjoy the ambiance and keep the party going.

The HTAP organization slowly took shape after attending a conference with Zonta International concerning human trafficking. Theiss said very little people knew how big the issue was in the area and nobody was really doing anything to improve the situation.

After Theiss met with the Lee County sheriff, he began having meetings at his facility for law enforcement and service providers. At the time information was given to the sheriff’s department that led to the arrest of four traffickers, which also resulted in helping one victim who needed care. At that time, Theiss became the co-chair of the task force.

When many other Zonta groups heard about what was being done in Lee County, Theiss began traveling offering information to the other groups. She said it was not until Karen Pati said a nonprofit needed to be formed because of all the traveling out of the area that Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships was formed in the summer of 2006.

After becoming a nonprofit, the Sanibel community really came together and began supporting the organization through small donations. The local Zonta Club donated funds, as well as St. Michael’s and All Angels Episcopal Church providing a lending hand. Volunteers became trained and also joined HTAP.

In 2010, HTAP introduced youth programs to the community through its ARTREACH program. Theiss said because she was an educator for 10 years, she knew an important age group to educate were the youth because she wanted to try to keep them from becoming victims of human trafficking.

The first ARTREACH was done through a play at Cypress Lake Center for the Arts. Theiss said the play transpired because her daughter was a student at the school and the teacher was really excited about putting something together.

From there, she began working with Gennelle Grant who had experience as an art therapist.

“She began working with us and it became successful after two sessions,” Theiss said of ARTREACH.

The ARTREACH program began in February 2010 as an effort to help spread what kind of dangers are associated with human trafficking, as well as raise awareness of the crime. The program is offered for youngsters 8 and older over a five-day session where they spend time creating a canvas collaboratively depicting what they learned about human trafficking. Three or four children work together on the same canvas, which many times include a border representing a message that is told within the main masterpiece.

Since that partnership, youth have created 93 paintings that depict a message of human trafficking.

Theiss said with the success of the program, she wanted to hire a full-time art coordinator. Kristen Donovan, who was hired in February, has been instrumental in offering additional knowledge of art. A grant from the Rauschenberg Foundation made the position possible.

HTAP recently extended its outreach to Collier County offering three ARTREACH programs to the youth.

Kiwanis Gateway to the Islands has been a huge supporter of the ARTREACH program. Because of their support, Theiss said they are able to give the youth participants a sketchbook, as well as a safety whistle as commission for creating a painting to educate the community.

For more information about HTAP, visit www.humantraffickingawareness.org, or email info@humantraffickingawareness.org.