Human trafficking awareness effort raising funds to educate and rescue girls

By ALLISON SELK - Shaw Media correspondent Published: Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017 11:34 p.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017 11:35 p.m. CDT
Volunteers for the Love Outreach Center want to fight human trafficking in our area under leadership of Pastor Esther Holiday, who was once a victim of sex trafficking herself. — Allison Selk

Saturday will mark the second annual Love Outreach Center Human Trafficking Awareness Fundraiser designed to educate the public on the growing trend of trafficking in our area and raise funds for future efforts to educate and rescue girls caught in the billion-dollar industry.

Pastor Esther Holiday began the Love Outreach Center in order to help girls escape sex trafficking. She was trafficked as a teen after she left her abusive Chicago home and befriended a man who promised to care for her but then trafficked her. She escaped after one year, and now as a pastor and former victim, she has made it her life work to educate and aid girls into safety after being rescued.

Advance sale tickets are $20 a person, and 16 years and under are $5. Tickets at the door will be $25. There will be appetizers, desserts and nonalcoholic drinks; a youth and adult fashion show; music; and presentations by Selah Freedom. A $100 prize will go to the person who brings the most guests.

Holiday has asked pastor Apostle P. Louis Evans from Universal Christian Center in Chicago to offer his testimony and share a different perspective on human trafficking, as he was a pimp at one time before he became a pastor.

“He was around other men who were selling girls for money, and he saw how productive and easy it was to make money from girls, so he got some girls and began his own business,” Holiday said of Evans. “He said what pulled on his heartstrings was when he thought about his mom and sister and if they were pimped out like he was doing to other girls. He got out and became a pastor in Chicago.”

Holiday said the purpose of the event is to raise money to continue to support the safe houses the Love Outreach Center has partnered with, such as Selah Freedom, Children of the Night and the Dream Center.

She also goes into high schools in the Morris and surrounding areas and speaks to classes about trafficking, being safe online and being aware of one’s surroundings.

“I speak in classes on a small scale, and kids began to open up and ask questions. I speak their language,” Holiday said. “I don’t talk over their head because of what I do; I can relate to kids. Teacher can’t believe the reaction from kids because they took the information seriously. I tell them about dangers on the internet, parties, malls and places where kids can relate.”

She hopes to get into the Joliet school system to reach even more students, and has worked with Joliet and Will County law enforcement to discuss outreach possibilities in and around Joliet. Grundy County State’s Attorney Jason Helland also works with Holiday to give a perspective on trafficking and what he sees as dangers and advice from a legal perspective.

Holiday said Morris and surrounding communities as well as Joliet offer a prime location for traffickers to bring girls because of the junction of Interstate 55 and Interstate 80, which offers easy in and out locations as well as many truck stops, hotels, bars and massage parlors, where trafficking can take place. The majority of the behind-the-scenes work has been done via the internet before the girls meet their clients, agree on a location and meet. Then they can hit the interstates and be on their way to the next location or stay in one area and let people come to them.

A goal of $15,000 has been set for the event, and Holiday wants to use the event as an opportunity to inform the public on what happens when a girl is rescued, what the teaching efforts have been and hopefully create long-term supporters financially and on a volunteer basis.

“Unless the community becomes involved, nothing will be done. People want to close their eyes, but I don’t care, I’m going to push until people get the point,” Holiday said.

If you go:

Love Outreach Center

2nd Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Fundraiser

Oct. 21, 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Quality Inn

200 Gore Road, Morris

815-651-8564

loveoutreachtc@yahoo.com