Wake Salvation Army fights human trafficking

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — In 2011, when Salvation Army of Wake County launched a program to rescue foreign-born victims of human trafficking, it served 12 individuals in its first three months — a number it had expected to serve in its first two years.

So it expanded the project, known as Project FIGHT, to include clients born in the U.S. and now has served 207 individuals, including victims and their family members. It also has trained over 4,500 people across the state to help identify individuals caught in the web of human trafficking, and raise awareness about the issue.

Now, with a two-year, $458,000 federal grant, the Salvation Army is expanding the program to New Bern and Salisbury.

“It’s modern-day slavery, which a lot of people don’t realize still exists,” says Christine Shaw, director of social ministries at Salvation Army of Wake County. “There are more slaves in the world that at any other time in history.”

Wake’s Salvation Army first got involved in statewide anti-trafficking efforts in 2005.

“Those efforts were mostly focused on foreign-born victims,” Shaw says. “But we quickly began to realize the domestic side as well — trafficking within our own borders.”

Foreign-born victims, many of them from Latin America, South America and Asia, often arrive in the U.S. “believing they are coming legally,” she says. Their families often pay for their travel, and they believe they are coming to work in a hotel or restaurant or as a nanny, for example.

But once in the U.S., many victims are put into organized brothel rings that may move them frequently up and down the East Coast. They are cut off from their families, and threatened that if they don’t do what they are told and pay off what they are told is their “debt,” their families will be hurt. And room and board are deducted from whatever “pay” they may receive.

Victims born in the U.S. often are befriended by someone who becomes a “boyfriend” before making the relationship commercial.

Most cases, especially in the Triangle, involve forced or coerced prostitution or pornography, Shaw says. Some cases involve labor trafficking.

Project FIGHT — an acronym for “Freeing Individuals Gripped by Human Trafficking” — partners with 150 groups such as hospitals, clinics, domestic-violence shelters, and agencies that focus on law enforcement, legal services, job-readiness and emergency assistance for needs such as clothing, food and housing.

For foreign-born victims, Project FIGHT works to get their documentation for residency.

And working with the North Carolina Coalition Against Human Trafficking, Wake’s Salvation Army is part of an effort to create teams of professionals across the state that can respond within 24 hours after a victim is found.

“We first try to stabilize people, make sure they have services they need,” Shaw says.

Operating with an annual budget of $350,000 and a staff that will grow to five people from three, Project FIGHT raises money through grants, contributions and an annual event, Just Art, a project of Red Light Film and Art, a nonprofit arm of Ekklesia, a Raleigh church.

In 2014, Project FIGHT served 66 victims, and likely will serve 75 this year. Just over a fourth of its cases involve minors, 37 percent are ages 18 to 25, and most victims trapped in commercial sex trafficking began at ages 12 to 14, Shaw says.

What is driving human trafficking, she says, is “the demand for cheap labor and commercial sex.”

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Girl Scouts chart path for growth

By Todd Cohen

 RALEIGH, N.C. — As a first grader in rural western Canada, Lisa Jones joined the Girl Guides, the Canadian sisters of the Girls Scouts, where one of the first merit badges she earned was for drama. The experience changed her, she says, and led to a career in theater management.

“It led me to an interest in the performing arts, which I had not been exposed to from our rural upbringing,” says Jones, who joined the Girl Scouts – North Carolina Coastal Pines as CEO in January 2013 after 15 years at Carolina Ballet, including 12 as executive director.

Now, Jones wants girls throughout the 41 counties the Raleigh-based Council serves to have the same kinds of opportunities she found in Scouting.

Guided by a three-year strategic plan it developed last year with input from volunteers, board members, girls and staff, the Council aims to boost training and support for volunteers; strengthen traditional troops, particularly for younger girls; recruit more alumnae and strengthen the bond of Girl Scouting; focus on underserved regions and the potential for growth; and diversify its funding.

With nearly 29,000 Scouts and nearly 9,800 adult volunteers, the Council operates with 243 employees, service centers in Raleigh, Goldsboro and Fayetteville, and four camps. It plans to open a fourth service center in Wilmington by this fall, and is trying to sell a fifth camp.

The effort to boost its traditional troops program has intentionally resulted in a short-term reduction — from 33,500 two years ago — in the number of the Council’s girl members overall, Jones says. That mainly reflects a decline to 45 percent from 60 percent in the share of girl members participating in “outreach” programs, compared to traditional troops.

For girls who participate in its outreach programs, which are designed for girls who otherwise could not afford to participate in a traditional troop, particularly in rural and low-income urban areas, the Council subsidizes its $15 annual membership fee with funds it raises privately.

“We were willing to decrease total membership, short-term, to allow us to focus on our core business, which is building that K-5 traditional troop experience,” Jones says.

“It’s critical to do both” for the long-term, she says. “We want to be able to serve all 41 counties and assure that all girls are receiving a fantastic Girl Scout experience.”

To boost its traditional troops program, the Council hired a program director for girls in kindergarten and first grade, known as Daisies, and in first and second grade, known as Brownies.

The Council also has formed partnerships with Golden Corral and Capitol Broadcasting Co. to pilot year-long outreach programs for girls living in public housing communities.

It has hired volunteer recruitment directors, all new positions, for markets it has targeted for growth in Wake, Cumberland, Pitt and New Hanover counties, as well as outreach coordinators, also new positions, to assist volunteers in Wake, Cumberland, Johnston and Pitt counties.

And it has hired a corporate gift officer and an individual gift officer, both new positions, to secure gifts of $5,000 or more and help increase overall contributions to $1.4 million from $1 million within at least two years.

A key fundraising initiative, Jones says, will be to support the purchase of a bus to deliver materials to community partners in regions, particularly in rural counties, where a lack of transportation may keep girls from participating in day-long programs that are more easily accessible to girls in traditional troops.

The Council also is investing just over $1 million for improvements to its camps.

“The key for us is having Girl Scouts be a philanthropic priority for our communities,” says Jones, who expects to spend 50 percent to 60 percent of her time on fundraising, compared to 40 percent of her time at Carolina Ballet. “We haven’t told our story, and it’s an incredible story.”

Eighty percent of all female corporate executives in the U.S., as well as two-thirds of women in Congress, were Girl Scouts, as were 12 astronauts, eight First Ladies and a member of the U.S. Supreme Court, Jones says.

Girl Scouting now involves 3.2 million girls and women, and its cookie program is the largest girl-led business in the world, generating $790 million in annual sales — and accounting for nearly 65 percent of the local Council’s annual budget.

“We build girls of courage, confidence and character,” Jones says. “It’s critical for our future leadership in the U.S. that girls have that level of confidence to truly make a difference.”

Girls Rock NC uses music to build character

By Todd Cohen

DURHAM, N.C. — As a sixth grader in Reidsville, Amelia Shull wanted to play drums in the music program at her middle school. But because her parents could not afford to buy a drum set, Shull ended up playing the flute, thanks to a donor who contributed one to the school.

“Although I was a kid who couldn’t afford an instrument, I was given an opportunity to be part of the orchestra,” says Shull, Upper School visual arts teacher at Carolina Friends School in Durham.

For the past 10 years, through Girls Rock NC, a Durham nonprofit she founded and co-chairs, Shull has worked to give girls a chance to experience the joy of music she discovered through her parents, who are songwriters and folk musicians.

Operating with an annual budget of $65,000, most of it generated from tuition of $325 per camper, Girls Rock NC has provided a summer camp for well over 1,000 girls, along with an after-school program it launched in 2011.

The summer camp has expanded from Durham to include sites in Raleigh and Chatham County.

Girls Rock NC is one of 43 independent programs that are part of The Girls Rock Camp Alliance, an international coalition of organizations that use music education to empower girls and women and to foster self-esteem and confidence.

The local group focuses on “encouraging girls to use their own voices,” says Shull, who as an 10th grader, confined to a wheel chair for several months after breaking her pelvis in a car accident, “recognized that, when you have strong feelings, when you’re hurting, when you’re trying to find a way to connect, music was the place that felt the most powerful.”

Girls Rock NC offers two summer camp sessions of one week each at Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh, Triangle Music School in Durham and Woods Charter School in Chatham County.

Each session has room for 40 girls, with the first session for girls age seven to 10, and the second session for girls age 11 to 15.

In May, Girls Rock NC will hold an overnight weekend program for 12 to 15 women age 18 and older at The Stone House that will culminate with a performance.

Girls Rock NC provides instruments for girls who need them, and adults from a corps of nearly 100 volunteers lead sessions on a broad range of topics, including forming and naming a band, writing music and lyrics for songs, and performing.

With women who work at the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture at Duke, the girls also make zines, or magazines without ads.

They create their own t-shirts and other apparel; study dance, stage presence, yoga and “body confidence;” learn about self-defense, making choices, and team-building; and work to develop skills in media literacy so they can “be critical thinkers when viewing images of girls on TV and in the media,” Shull says.

The after-school program, held once a week for 10 weeks at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro and at Hayti Heritage Center in Durham for 12 girls each, focuses mainly on helping girls develop skills as musicians.

Girls Rock NC, which in January hired its first paid staff, including a full-time director of operations and a part-time program director, also in December held its first fundraising  appeal, generating $6,000.

It plans to hold a social-media “crowdfunding” campaign this spring, is looking for sponsorships and scholarship support, will partner with the mother of a former camper who this summer plans to launch a Girls Rock camp in Charlotte, and in October will hold a 10th anniversary Community Girls Rock Fest at The ArtsCenter and Cat’s Cradle, both in Carrboro.

“We just want to be sure that every kid gets to have the experience of exploring creative outlets for expression,” says Shull, whose seven-year-old daughter will be eligible for the first time this summer to attend Girls Rock NC camp.

“She wants to sign up,” Shull says, “and play, no surprise, the drums.”

Safe Alliance serves people in crisis

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department receives 35,000 calls a year reporting domestic violence, which likely is much more pervasive in the community: The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates only one in 10 victims of domestic violence actually reports the incident.

And perpetrators cannot be characterized by race, ethnicity or level of income or education.

“Domestic violence cuts across all levels and areas of our community,” says Phil Kline, president and CEO of Safe Alliance, a Charlotte nonprofit that provides shelter, advocacy and counseling to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.

In addition to the toll on women and families, and to the cost to taxpayers of the legally-mandated response by police to calls, domestic violence is expensive to business.

An estimated 20 percent of all adult women will be victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives, and experts believe that intimate partner violence costs U.S. businesses up to $5 billion a year.

Research by the Centers for Disease Control in 2003 found that roughly eight million paid workdays a year were lost as a result of intimate partner violence.

Domestic violence in the workplace will be the focus of a summit on October 11 hosted by Safe Alliance and ENOUGH, a public awareness campaign about domestic violence.

The event will focus on helping employers measure the impact that domestic violence could be taking on their bottom line, and provide them with tools to address the issue and encourage victim employees and bystanders to come forward.

Domestic violence also will be the focus of Safe Alliance’s inaugural annual luncheon, to be held October 16 at the Hilton Charlotte Center City, featuring keynote speakers Ron Kimble, Charlotte deputy city manager, and his wife, Jan, whose daughter Jamie Kimble was murdered just over a year ago at age 31 by her former boyfriend.

Operating with an annual budget of $5.6 million and a staff of 62 people working full-time and 25 working part-time, Safe Alliance served 22,000 people in the fiscal year ended June 30.

In January, it opened the Clyde and Ethel Dickson Domestic Violence Shelter, which can house as many as 120 women and children at once, up from 29 at the shelter it replaced.

And because there is more room, women and children now typically stay for 90 days, up from 35 at the old shelter, giving the agency time to provide a range of services to help women become self-sufficient.

Safe Alliance, which has raised $9.4 million for the new shelter and still is seeking contributions to support it, also fields staff attorneys and victims assistance staff to help  women obtain protective orders and navigate legal processes at the Mecklenburg County courts.

Victim advocates at the agency’s offices in Charlotte, Cornelius, Monroe and Concord assist victims of sexual assault, and the agency also operates a rape crisis hotline for Mecklenburg, Union and Cabarrus counties, and provides mental health services.

And it operates a child advocacy center in Union County, and partners with similar centers in Charlotte and Concord, that work in partnership with law enforcement officials and medical professionals to assess and interview children who have been physically or sexually abused.

Safe Alliance also is working to build long-term relationships with donors by engaging them in its work and raising awareness about the needs it addresses.

“That’s what we have to develop here to accomplish our long-term goals,” Kline says.

BCC Rally raising money to fight breast cancer

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — At its 10th annual weeklong series of fundraising events from September 24 to 29 at Ballantyne Country Club in Charlotte, BCC Rally expects to bring to $1 million or more the total it has raised since it was founded in 2004 to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Of that total, 25 percent has supported breast-cancer research through the  national Komen organization, and 75 percent has remained in the 13 counties served by Komen Charlotte to fund local community health grants and education outreach programs.

Since BCC Rally was founded, those local dollars would have funded the equivalent of 3,750 free procedures, including mammograms, biopsies and other diagnostic procedures, says Sue Dockstader, president of BCC Rally.

And in a region that now includes 13 counties, those community and education programs are critical for women who otherwise might not know about or be able to afford breast-cancer screenings.

“There are still large numbers of women suffering from this disease,” says Dockstader, who also is owner of Yum Cha Treasures, which sells Chinese antiques and collectibles. “There’s still much more needed in diagnostic procedures and treatments.”

To help fight breast cancer, which will affect one in eight women in the U.S. during their lifetime, the all-volunteer BCC Rally was formed initially to host a small women’s golf tournament that raised $1,000.

This year, BCC Rally will feature five events, including a gala with a keynote speech by Trudi Lacy, a former basketball All American at N.C. State University and a former WNBA general manager, head coach and scout, as well as a visit by Judith Salerno, the new CEO of Komen for the Cure.

BCC Rally also will feature a family walk; women’s golf tournament and luncheon; men’s golf tournament; women’s tennis tournament and luncheon; and the Pink Bow Gala.

Presenting sponsor for this year’s BCC Rally is Snyder’s-Lance Inc., and event sponsors are Skatell’s Manufacturing Jewelers, Ballantyne Country Club, Charlotte Radiology, KPMG; and Aetna.

Last year, BCC Rally raised $215,000, including $57,000 through its Pink Bow Campaign that sold pink bows in 60 neighborhoods, 45 businesses and 16 schools, mainly in Charlotte but also reaching a total of 30 states and eight countries.

The idea is to sell “one pink bow at a time,” and for people who buy the bows to tie them on a mailbox, backpack or door at work, and then sell more bows to their neighbors, fellow students or co-workers, Dockstader says.

In August, Komen Charlotte announced Duke University Medical Center and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill would receive a total of $3.6 million in 2013 from Susan G. Komen for the Cure for breast cancer research.

Those funds represent just over 8.5 percent of the $42 million in research awards this year from Komen, which is the world’s largest non-governmental funder of breast cancer research.

Research those funds will support include a focus on environmental factors that may contribute to breast cancer, and on barriers that may affect breast cancer outcomes among African Americans, particularly in low-income and rural areas.

Earlier this year, Komen Charlotte awarded $1.2 million in grants to 21 nonprofits.

“The big push,” Dockstader says, “is for early detection.”

Agency offers resources and referrals for women

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — In 1995, four Triad women who informally had been sharing information to help one another through life transitions such as the need to care for elderly parents or to find legal assistance for a pending divorce concluded women in the community could use that kind of support on a regular basis.

They did some research, visited local health and human services agencies to learn about possible gaps in services, and enrolled in classes offered by Duke University’s certificate program in nonprofit management.

They also found that North Carolina was home to seven local centers that provided resources for women, and that Greensboro was the largest city in the state without such a center.

So they formed the Women’s Resource Center of Greensboro.

“We recognized Greensboro had a wealth of health and human service agencies but not many people knew where they were,” says Ashley Brooks, executive director of the Center and one of its founding members.

Operating with an annual budget of nearly $500,000, a fulltime staff of seven people and an active corps of 350 volunteers, the agency serves roughly 9,000 women a year.

In one of its biggest programs, 40 trained volunteers provide counseling on community resources to nearly 1,000 women a year by appointment, and to several thousand more by phone.

A second program, provided by human resources representatives from local companies, offers classes for about 200 women a year to prepare them for the workforce after they have been years taking care of their children and families and now need a paying job as a result of divorce, disability, downsizing or death.

Classes, offered four to five times a year, run three days a week for three weeks and include mock job interviews, resume writing, career counseling, and advice on how to transfer home skills to the marketplace, with the HR reps also serving as mentors for up to a year.

The Center also offers an attorney hotline, with 37 volunteer lawyers answering basic legal questions that cover 22 areas of law in 15-minute conversations scheduled by appointment with nearly 1,000 women a year.

The lawyers also host legal lunches and offer two-hour workshops, mainly on legal issues such as divorce or child custody.

Other programs the Center offers include a four-part self-esteem series that is offered twice a month, once during the day and once in the evenings, and is taught by trained volunteers to about 250 women a year.

“We recognize we can give women resources when they come in,” Brooks says, “but sometimes there are circumstances where they cannot act because of fear or the enormity of whatever situation they’re in.”

And the Center offers community workshops throughout the year that attract about 500 women and are provided by other agencies on topics in which its clients indicate an interest, such as financial literacy, consumer credit and predatory lending.

It also provides training to community volunteers.

Last year, for example, it trained 60 volunteers who work with Winter Emergency Shelter, a program organized through Greensboro Urban Ministry in which local churches provide shelter during the winter months for homeless people when local homeless shelters are full.

The Women’s Resource Center, a partner agency of United Way of Greater Greensboro, also receives funding from local foundations and individual donors.

Its big annual fundraising event, Men Can Cook, was held Aug. 11 at the Special Events Center at the Greensboro Coliseum, netted $60,000 and attracted 800 guests.