Taste of Freedom Gala brings awareness to human trafficking
The theme of the night was “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” as the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking brought held a gala to bring awareness to a dark subject at the Fort Myers Event Center Saturday evening.
The event raised funds for the nonprofit which is comprised of volunteers who help abuse victims find shelter and assist them with obtaining shelter, food, clothing, hygiene products, counseling and medical care. The organization relies on donations to help fund assistance to victims.
Eszter Minor, a victim of human trafficking herself, spoke to those in attendance of the importance of the group’s work. She mentioned the “suicide attempts” and the ways human trafficking can break apart families but Minor used her time Saturday to focus on the heart of what drives human slavery.
“Human traffickers do not discriminate. They only care about one thing, making money,” she said.
Minor, a native of Hungary, has since founded SoulWarrior Living, a company with a mission focused on spiritual and self-healing.
“Human traffickers don’t see another human being looking for love,” Minor said. “They see another (opportunity) for profit.”
Minor said there also has to be more work done to help male victims.
“Boys are just as targeted and vulnerable as girls,” she said.
“I truly believe we do the best we can,” Minor said.
Her hope was that those at Saturday’s program, which brought together business owners, law enforcement and media members, would lead to a pooling of resources and help create a “slave-free world.”
On Saturday, the coalition named Bud Stoddard and Susan Wendschuh as the volunteers of the year. Wendschuh said she and Stoddard, who are partners, became involved after Wendschuh learned about the organization during a golf outing.
“I wanted a charitable cause for my company,” Wendschuh said. Wendschuh, who owns DesignerTails, worked with Stoddard in obtaining a large number of the items which were raffled off Saturday as part of the fundraiser.
Wendschuh is also training to be an educator. The coalition’s work, she said, “changes a lot of people’s lives.”
Wendschuh said the coalition also expects to help schools in educating children about the dangers of human trafficking based on curriculum changes which will mandate education about human trafficking.
According to information provided by the coalition, the organization filled 175 “freedom packs” with personal hygiene items in 2018. Of those, 152 were distributed to law enforcement and agencies that help work with human trafficking victims. The coalition also provided a large grant to help open a safe home in the region last year for victims under the age of 18. In addition, the coalition helped bring back underaged trafficked victims to their families.
“It’s important for people to realize we are an all-volunteer organization and we are in need of volunteers,” Wendschuh said.
Those looking to find out more about the coalition can visit the website at Stophumantrafficking.org.
Participating restaurants at the event included Bahama Breeze, Bonefish Grill, Cantina Laredo, DaRuMa, Divieto Ristorante, The French Brasserie Rustique, Trattoria Mia and 3 Pepper Burrito Company.
Sponsors for Saturday’s event included the Cape Coral Police Department, Carter-Pritchett Advertising, Cloud9 Float Spa, Davidson Irrigation, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Platinum PEO Resources, Inc., Scanlon Lexus of Fort Myers, The Eventful Company, and Pushing the Envelope, Inc.