SUISUN VALLEY — Leadership Today drew hundreds of people to its weekend fundraising event, “Living in the Shadows,” at the Wooden Valley Winery in Suisun Valley, Sunday.
The fundraiser is to help bring awareness to human trafficking in Solano County. The money raised goes to The Children’s Nurturing Project.
Leadership Today is a 10-month program which brings together local business leaders who take the program to gain knowledge on leadership and helping the community. Participants are broken into groups and are asked to work on nonprofit projects. The Children’s Nurturing Project was introduced by Debbi Davis, R.N., founder of the project. The groups voted to chose Children’s Nurturing Project as their project.
Davis worked as a registered nurse for NorthBay Neonatal for many years.
“I saw babies going home from the hospital to home situations that were just . . . bad,” said Davis.
She gathered together like-minded people who saw a need in the community to help the youngest victims of childhood abuse and neglect.
“We have social workers, educators, nurses, medical professionals and law enforcement helping us bring awareness and educate people,” Davis said.
One of the biggest issues that they have begun addressing is human trafficking, which is not just adults who find themselves in trouble, but also young people from 12 to 14 years old, she said.
“Sometimes these young girls are kidnapped or they are sold as prostitutes by family members,” said Tracy Ellison, conservation project coordinator for Solano Land Trust and a partner of the Children’s Nurturing Project.
“It is not just in the bigger cities, it’s here in Solano County. But people don’t talk about it, people don’t see it,” she said.
The Vacaville and Suisun City chambers of commerce, along with law enforcement, are working together to help combat this rising crime against children.
The project looks to shed light on this problem by talking to schools, law enforcement and other entities about helping these victims in the community find a way out of their plight.
Davis and Ellison have talked to various local groups to help educate people on this issue. Part of the money raised is going to help them continue their efforts to bring awareness to the community.
“We want to use part of the money to hire a couple of girls who have escaped this life, and are able to talk about it with others to bring awareness,” Ellison said. “This is not about criminals, but about victims.”
“One of the problems for law enforcement is that we just don’t see it here in the area enough to recognize that the person who is a prostitute is actually somebody that needs help, not jail,” said Fairfield Police Officer Chad Tigert. “A lot of these (girls) are really young kids. They don’t have family, they get snatched from the street and pimped out with no hope of escaping.
“What’s good about this project is they are trying to bring resources to the community. We want these victims to get the help they need.”
Over the past 24 hours, the project has raised $50,000, part of that money comes from local businesses like Ford Fairfield, which raised $20,000 including money raised over Memorial Day Weekend.
“Last weekend for every car sold, we gave a $100 to the project. We sold 94 cars and raised $9,400,” said Allie Maddux, of the Ford dealership.
“When this human trafficking issue was brought to our attention, we were shocked. How can that happen here? But we wanted to help as best we could,” Maddux said.
“We don’t want this to just be a fundraising project, we want this to be part of the solution for this problem,” Davis said.
For more information on Children’s Nurturing Project, go to www.childrensnurturingproject.org. For more information on human trafficking, visit www.TraffickingResourceCenter.org.
If you are a victim and need help, call 888-373-7888. It is toll-free and open 24 hours a day.
Reach Susan Hiland at 427-6981 or firstname.lastname@example.org.