A woman who can be described as a wife, mom, grandma, community volunteer, and leader among the nonprofit community always preferred to live on the sunny side of the street and believed the best about people. After attending training about human trafficking (HT), she began noticing signs of it in her North Texas community. She learned how traffickers use social media to send messages and found similar language on a public workplace account that she managed for a local nonprofit organization (NGO). Immediately the permissions were changed on the account to disrupt potential criminal activity. Her alarm bells also went off as she observed signs of it near her workplace. Security cameras at the time were low quality. The cameras were upgraded so police had access to clearer video for criminal investigations. The desire to get involved in the fight against HT led her to resign her full-time position at the NGO and spend the next two years researching and learning as much as she could about the issue.
Little did she know that not long after her HT awareness began, that she and her husband would report a teen who was very close to them as a missing person to local police and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). Two law enforcement officers (LEO) listened to their grief-stricken stories as they explained why they thought this was happening. After sharing red flags observed in the life of this teen to the officers, she expressed her feelings, “I don’t understand. I thought it was illegal. No one seems to care.” An officer replied, “We just have not been trained on it in our community.” Those officers began getting trained on human trafficking. Now all LEOs in Texas are required to be trained about human trafficking.
This broken-hearted native Texan expanded her passion from the fight for one person to fighting for all children in North Texas. A team was formed for the board of directors and Southern Grit Advocacy began on November 4, 2019. She and her husband immediately began educating community members about trafficking as board members invested their time in learning more about the issue.
The original mission was to prevent, disrupt, and end sex trafficking through education and advocacy. As the organization began training others, they realized that educating about HT included more than just sex trafficking. The mission was updated to prevent, disrupt, and end human trafficking through education and advocacy.
COVID-19 greatly affected fundraising efforts for the new start-up in 2020. Participating in Texoma Gives 2020, the annual online giving day in North Texas, resulted in receiving desperately needed funds to operate. In contrast to the downside of the statewide and community shut-down, board members had more time to commit to drafting policies and putting systems into place. The new startup joined many other NGOs in championing HT prevention education in Texas Public Schools. An Education Committee was formed. The Committee reviewed nine prevention curricula, listed results in an easy-to-read chart, and shared it with educators and community members.
Survivors of this horrific crime are referred for resources and education. Opportunities are provided for them to share their stories. We believe that communities and families can work together to give survivors hope for a better future!
The Personal Safety Savvy program is our overall personal safety and prevention education for K-12 grade students that began in 2021 by partnering with youth-serving organizations. It includes both free and licensed prevention curricula from various resources and publishers. We believe that HT can beprevented through education.
Southern Grit Advocacy hosts, co-hosts, and coordinates training for professionals and other community members. We believe that working together is essential to combating this modern-day slavery in America.
Due to recent increases in COVID cases within Wichita County, the Jan. 11, 2022 "Breakfast with Mayor Santellana" event is being rescheduled to a later date (to be announced).