Sales from Wellspring Bag Days go to support Well Spring Living, which aims to confront the issue of childhood sexual abuse and exploitation through awareness, training and treatment programs. (Special Photo)
It’s not every day the average person gets to help someone involved in prostitution and human trafficking.
However, that’s exactly what people in the community can do this week during Wellspring Bag Days.
The event goes to support Wellspring Living, which aims to confront the issue of childhood sexual abuse and exploitation through awareness, training and treatment programs.
“A majority of people can’t go there in their minds and they assume it’s not a real problem,” said Chief Development Officer Angela Raub. “But it’s a growing problem, especially outside the metro area.”
The premise of the event is that customers can come to 2785 Buford Highway, Suite 102-A Thursday through Saturday for a summer clearance like no other.
For $30 (on Thursday), customers can roll, tuck and put into a brown paper bag (provided) all the clothing, purses and belts they can fit. The price goes down to $25 on Friday and $20 on Saturday.
“Last year, the store made $8,000,” said Susan Hicock, manager of the store. “We hope to break that record this year. We’re trying to get rid of our summer clothes and get ready for fall.”
For Hicock, the event takes on an all-too-real approach as some of the women who have been through the program work in the store.
“I can remember one woman telling me this was the first job she had other than prostituting,” Hicock said, “and she was 42. When you live where we live, you don’t realize it’s going on.”
And that’s just one of the more than 500 women that have gone through the Wellspring program in 12 years.
For Raub, prostitution and human trafficking were something she wasn’t as keenly aware of until her daughter returned home from a Passion Conference in which human trafficking was spoken about.
“It affected my daughter hearing the victims of human trafficking speak to everyone,” Raub said. “From there, I educated myself more on it and realized how much of a problem it is.”
Through various studies, some of the statistics are alarming as to those involved in the business.
“Forty-two percent of sex trafficking in the metro area is north of the perimeter,” Hicock said. “Most of the women come from dysfunctional homes with abuse. They watch TV and see ads for big cities. They pack their bags and take a bus to Atlanta.
“And there are pimps stationed at MARTA stations just waiting on unassuming girls. They walk up to them, tell them they’re beautiful and take them to dinner. Next thing you know, they can’t get away.”
However, Raub said it’s not just women from bad backgrounds who are trafficked.
“The victim is not always someone from a poor area,” she said. “Sex trafficking is non-discriminatory. We’ve seen women from all walks of life.”
Craigslist and other dating sites are some avenues used to advance prostitution and human trafficking.
“They are well-used vehicles,” Raub said. “It can start with something completely innocent like doing favors for money. Then it turns into much more.”
While it would be impossible to adequately compare the Holocaust to human trafficking, Raub said there are a few disturbing trends between the two.
“For three years, Europe was trying to tell us what was going on and nobody believed them,” Raub said. “People said, ‘How could someone do that to another human?’ Then we saw first-hand how bad it really was. It’s the same with human trafficking. Because it’s not in your face every day, you don’t realize how big of a problem it is. That’s why we need this message to get out. We have to be a voice for those who can’t speak.”
Currently, the center is able to work with 50 women a year, but once a new facility is built, they’ll be able to work with 100 women a year.
Hicock said she is proud that 88 cents of every dollar at her store goes to women and their restoration.
“We don’t like to call them victims, we like to call them survivors,” she said. “We believe there is hope for them. They can leave this all behind.”