Partner: Rotary Club of Seattle - Seattle 4
Our latest community spotlight is Virginia McKenzie of Rotary. Partnerships like the one with Virginia and the Rotary Club of Seattle allow us to continue supporting survivors, address demand, and create a better community. Thank you, Virginia!
How did you come to be interested in the issue of trafficking and what drives your work?
StolenYouth came to speak at my Rotary Club a few years ago. I distinctly remember the moment when my whole club gasped with shock and horror to learn that 80% of the buyer schedule their appointments from their offices in the middle of downtown Seattle. Most Rotarians are business owners and managers. Realizing that trafficking was happening right under our noses was a real wake up call.
You are leading great work in Rotary. How have you seen the community come together around this issue?
I have a Rotary Pin that says “End Sex Trafficking Now.” At first I was shy to wear it in business settings because I felt it was too edgy. But I have been really taken back by the positive response it’s gotten. It’s actually opened up some really tender conversations. In addition, I have learned that many of my professional associates are interested in this topic too, many of whom are contributing directly in their own way or really want to.
Can you give a few examples of Rotary’s involvement in anti-trafficking efforts in our community?
Seattle Rotary sponsored a $20k grant to help Spruce Street Crisis Residential Center upgrade their facilities. We are also helping StolenYouth promote their candlelight vigil on June 10th. The candlelight vigil in Seattle is happening in conjunction with a much larger candlelight vigil at the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia on the same evening. It’s very exciting to see Rotarians from all around the world take a stand against human slavery.
Do you have advice for other people who want to help?
The sexual exploitation of youth is a dark issue. It’s haunting!! It has wormed its way into my heart and mind in ways that were impossible to predict. As you engage it’s helpful to have friends and family to talk to and decompress with. I am very grateful to be helping to raise awareness alongside my friends in Rotary and StolenYouth. They help me stay upbeat about working towards a solution.
Lance Odermat & Brown Bear Car Wash
Our latest spotlight of community members joining our efforts to end child trafficking is Lance Odermat of Brown Bear Car Wash. Lance and Brown Bear are one of our founding sponsors and their support allows us to disrupt the trafficking marketplace and create a better community. Thank you, Lance!
How long have you worked at Brown Bear?
A long time…my dad started the company in 1957. We are celebrating our 60th anniversary this year. I was always around the business from a very young age, but took a different path when I finished college and went to law school. It was important that I worked for other companies and firms first. I really did not hold a true full-time position with Brown Bear until 2002 when I became in-house counsel.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Pursuing innovation and expansion and looking for ways to ensure that is company will be around for another 60 years.
How did you first come to know of StolenYouth?
My wife, Claire Angel, is a founding board member.
Did you know about the problem of child trafficking before working with StolenYouth? (If yes, how much did you know?)
Quite honestly, the answer is “no”—at least not around here. Like so many, I assumed that this was only a problem in non-westernized or unstable countries and other faraway places.
What is one thing that surprised you the most about the issue of child trafficking here in Seattle?
It is hard to narrow it down to “one thing”. I am still shocked at what I have learned. The places where this crime is perpetrated, the market demand for it, the kids that fall victim to it, and the families that are affected—there is no stereotype. Victims and perpetrators can be found in every demographic.
Brown Bear has been a sponsor at every StolenYouth luncheon. What keeps you coming back every year?
The first luncheon I attended was very powerful. It opened my eyes to the problem. There are so many great causes out there to support, however, this organization is special. It is very well-run. With some non-profits, it is hard not to wonder if your financial support is being absorbed by administrative cost and overhead. With Stolen Youth that is not the case. You feel like each dollar donated really does make an impact.
What are some other causes that you support (either personally or through Brown Bear)?
It is a fairly long list. My dad was a Marine Corp Officer and so veteran’s causes are a big focus—the USO and Marine Corp Scholarship Foundation, especially. In the local community, we have traditionally been big supporters of the Woodland Park Zoo, Overlake Hospital, the Humane Society and the Puget Sound Keeper Alliance. Then there are the causes involving our kids like Boys Scouts of America and the Bainbridge Schools Foundation. The broadest reaching effort has been through our Brown Bear Charity Car Wash Program which has helped raise over $4.9 million for various causes since we started the program back in 2007.
Jennifer Draper & Draper Design
Not only has Jennifer Draper worked with the design community to support this issue facing our community, she has also been a table captain at StolenYouth's annual Not On Our Watch Luncheon. Jennifer believes, "You can always find a connection between your professional and personal life to help. There is always a way to give back." We are so grateful to partner with her and the rest of the design community in Seattle!
Sarah Gimball & UW’s Center for Global Health Nursing
Sarah Gimbel is a nursing innovator. She’s made a career out of noticing when problems could benefit from new approaches and perspectives—most recently as co-director of UW’s Center for Global Health Nursing. So in April of this year, when she attended the StolenYouth Not On Our Watch Luncheon, Sarah wondered: Could nursing students and organizations serving trafficked youth have something to teach each other?
“At the luncheon, I saw tremendous support from the donor community for this important issue,” she says. “But I also saw some gaps in the continuum of care where health care providers could be engaged more systematically.”
For trafficked youth, getting medical care is a serious challenge. Some have poor health insurance, others none at all. Many are discouraged by experiences with doctors and nurses who don’t have the special training to understand their health care needs. For youth without positive adult caregivers in their lives, the need for health care providers who empathize with their challenges and identities is especially high.
Meanwhile, the health care system is well positioned to shed light on the needs of trafficked youth. But there are challenges to be overcome. Health professionals can miss the opportunity to understand a patient’s life circumstances. And if clinical data is ever disorganized or inaccessible, at-risk individuals—who rarely see the same nurse twice—can get lost in the system.
At a meeting with StolenYouth’s leadership, Sarah and her colleagues at the UW School of Nursing explained how their doctoral of nursing practice (DNP) students might be able to help. These students undertake capstone projects that pair clinical learning and service learning, often partnering with community organizations.
There was a buzz around the table. “This sounds like it was meant to be,” said Patty. So the StolenYouth team set up meetings for Sarah with two organizations close to our mission—The Organization for Prostitution Survivors (OPS), a StolenYouth grantee that serves women in and out of the life, and Spruce Street, a transitional home for at-risk youth in Seattle.
Their conversations had an impact. This month, eight new internships—four at OPS and four at Spruce Street—got off the ground. Six of the positions will embed nursing students in these organizations, allowing them to serve at-risk youth directly. Two will help OPS evaluate and measure the impact of its newest pilot program, which centers on men’s accountability.
“For each spot that went to a nursing student, at least two or three other students wanted that spot,” Sarah says. She’s thrilled at the response.
She’s also looking towards the future, working on setting up “a series of post-doctoral fellowships…so that after students graduate they can pursue service learning in underserved communities. I imagine working with StolenYouth to help students stay at these organizations, permanently improving their health care capacity for years to come, changing how the holistic health needs of these youth are met.”
Beyond making a difference for youth, the internships these organizations built together are inspiring to our team. They grew out of Sarah’s experience at the StolenYouth luncheon this year—making us even more excited to see what new ideas and collaboration are sparked at our luncheon next April.
Sophia Tozzi of Jackson Hole, Wyoming
At 13 years old, Sophia Tozzi of Jackson Hole is reminding us of the challenges, hard questions and fulfillment that come with campaigning against the sexual exploitation of children. After learning about StolenYouth and talking to Board President Patty Fleischmann earlier this spring, Sophia wrote a report and held a bake sale to communicate the urgency of the issue to her classmates and neighbors.
“While I am happy and cozy in my bed at home, girls and boys so close to us are suffering,” she wrote. “They are forced to do things they have never seen before. Never even heard of.”
She described the dilemmas that girls her age find themselves in when dealing with abuse, “not wanting to go back home” to dangerous domestic situations, but living out on the street, where “anything could go wrong.”
It moved the StolenYouth team to see Sophia, through her writing, discover the difficult reality of what happens to girls her age on parts of the Internet that she will never see. “It is horrific that people use the Internet to turn trafficking into an industry. Without the money, and the buyers, this would not be as big of an issue as it is today.” Just as horrific, she recognized, was that these children are often “even manipulated into jail because they did the ‘harm.’
“It is hard to believe, but this problem should have been solved decades ago,” she says.
We couldn’t agree more.
Motivated by what she learned, Sophia turned the experience outward into an effort to raise awareness and money in Jackson Hole.
“It was Friday,” she wrote. “I rode my bike around Wilson, delivering brochures to all of the houses, leaving them on doorsteps. Then I got busy making cupcakes, cookies, brownies and lemonade to sell.”
What happened to Sophia as she set up her fundraising booth happens to all of us in the fight to mobilize our communities against human trafficking: she became nervous that no one would show up. Just as communities often let the exploitation of youth occur without organizing service providers and research teams to fight it, she worried that “people would just pass by, thinking this is no big deal, we don’t need to spend our money on this issue.” She fretted, as we do, about how to explain such a disturbing and difficult issue going on so close to home.
“Even though I was scared, I pushed through this cause, sitting at my stand outside of Nora’s Fish Creek Inn,” Sophia writes.
After handing out information packets and talking to neighbors for hours, she was very happily surprised: the bake sale raised $200 and change, and, we assume, lots of awareness of the prevalence of human trafficking all over the U.S.
Soon after, StolenYouth saw a new donation for $200.41. “What a strangely specific amount,” we thought, until Patty clued us in to Sophia’s inspiring story.
“You are probably wondering if this is a one-time thing for me,” Sophia says. “The answer? No. I will continue to donate to StolenYouth and raise awareness about this cause. My hope is that one day everybody will be aware of this cause and will fight to end this tragedy.”
Jill Donnelly, Owner of Baby & Company
Jill Donnelly was a buyer and manager at Baby & Company since 1988 and then purchased the company in 2009 after the former owners retired.
Tell Us about Baby & Company
It opened in 1976. It was the first retail store to open in the Belltown neighborhood. The store featured European & Japanese emerging designers like Kenzo, Comme des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto, Isabel Marant, when they were just starting out.
Baby & Company is the place to find never heard of, avant garde designers as well as other curios like pottery, vintage & surplus. The store prides itself in understanding the importance of creating great visual and imaginative visuals to showcase our collections.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Selling on the floor. I love dressing our customers in beautiful clothes and making them look and feel fantastic in their clothes. Of course I love scouting and discovering new and emerging talent in the market and exposing our customers to brands they have never seen or heard of. We have always tried to remain unique and special in this area.
How did you first come to know of StolenYouth?
I found out about Stolen Youth from a friend Jane Charles and the movie SOLD and the [issue] was taken up by two of my favorite women Paula Clapp & Patty Fleishmann. I was more than willing to join these remarkable women build this movement and be a foot solder for this cause. I share their passion and vision for ending the cycle of child slavery via prostitution.
What is one thing that surprised you the most about the issue of child trafficking here in Seattle?
I was most surprised to learn how surprised the community was to learn about the issue of child trafficking. I was also surprised how many people thought these girls were making a choice to do drugs and be prostituted in plain site.
You have been table sponsors at every StolenYouth luncheon. What keeps you coming back every year?
Knowledge is power. The more we educate the community about the problems, and give them an opportunity to get involved in the solution, the better community we can build together. I think it is important to have people see the profound effect the StolenYouth movement has had on bringing about real, sustainable change in the way we look at prostitution and to help understand we can make a difference if we act together on multiple levels through our laws and community outreach.
What is your favorite part of the luncheon?
My favorite part is the moment that comes at every luncheon that the entire room universally seems to understand we CAN bring about change and hope. That we are making a difference and that the promise of, “Not on our Watch,” is possible with a whole community invested in changing the status in not just in Seattle, but around the country and the globe.
What are some other causes that you support (either personally or through Baby and Co.)?
We support Mockingbird Society, YouthCare, St Vincent De Paul, YWCA, On the Boards, Global Partnerships, Rainer Scholars, and Fred Hutch.
Not On Our Watch Luncheon
Tell us about yourself
I'm currently finishing up my bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Eastern Washington University. I just joined Psi Chi, the honors society for psychology students and continue to guest lecture at local universities on trafficking and gender based violence. I'm working on getting my first paper published which is an analysis on prostitution as a form of gender based violence and plan to do some research work this summer around the demand side of prostitution. I'm applying to a PhD program in clinical psychology this fall so I can continue researching and teaching. My goal is to achieve a PhD in clinical psychology so I can do research which will inform best practices for working with survivors of sexual exploitation, domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse. I love to teach so a career in a university setting is what I'm aiming for.
How do you know StolenYouth
Through OPS where I'm a board member. I knew StolenYouth as our major funder and a big reason as to how we are around today. I had no idea when I first heard about StolenYouth what an amazing community of women was behind it. I have been honored to get to know Patty and Paula over the last few years and can honestly say I don't think I've ever met two quite so passionate and caring women. Having been a homeless teen that also ended up in prostitution I can say that StolenYouth is really changing the lives of these young girls that we work with for the better.
You were the keynote speaker at this year’s luncheon and you did a phenomenal job. How did you feel when you were up there speaking? What surprised you the most about the experience?
It was an amazing process! I've done a fair amount of public speaking in the past few years but this was a special event for me. Speaking to people with such a want to understand is a privilege and I'll never forget it. I was overwhelmed by the amazing outpouring of love after the event. I couldn't go two feet without someone wanting to hug me or talk to me and I think that really shows the level of compassion that was present in the room. A sweet young boy came up to me after the event and told me he understood what I had gone through and that he had gone through similar things and that I was not alone. I could barely hold back my own tears and hugged him; I felt like this was a sign that working on this issue is essential and that all youth in our community are touched by this issue in some way.
You have worked tirelessly on this issue for years. Have you noticed a cultural shift in our community around child trafficking?
Sometimes I feel like I've been working on this issue forever, but honestly I love what I do. I love it even more now that there is such a tangible shift in the way people are seeing this problem. The fact that people are talking about this problem at all is heartening and really spurs me on to do even more work.
I think what has surprised me the most has been the shift in views toward ending the demand for commercial sex. People are starting to realize that the demand is, indeed, the root cause of prostitution and trafficking. If you had told me five years ago that I would be sitting at a table discussing demand reduction tactics with Val Richey in attendance I would have laughed. I love that I was wrong about that. We still have a long way to go: more prevention, education and direct service work needs to be done.
What is your way of decompressing after a long day?
On days when things are especially rough I head straight for my kitchen. I was a chef for years so cooking at home always calms me down. It helps me to focus on something special like bread, croissants or mozzarella. There is something meditative and healing about kneading dough or straining fresh cheese curds. My husband has never complained about my self-care methods since he enjoys the treats I leave in my wake.
Who is your hero or role model?
My survivor sisters are my true role models and heroes. The unending love, support and patience that comes with that sisterhood is inspiring and unconditional. It doesn't matter what you came from, we have a shared a experience that binds us together.
What is one thing that someone could do, today, to help make a difference in fighting youth sexual exploitation?
Talk about it. And talk about it a lot! Talk about empowerment with your daughters, talk about respect and mutuality with your sons, talk about sex buying as a harmful practice to your friends, talk to your coworkers to promote a safe and demand-free work environment, talk to politicians to get laws passed that promote the safety of our youth, talk to everyone and anyone, engage others and encourage them to get involved and to learn about the issue. You would be surprised how much a conversation can change the world.