Posted by Graham Gillette

If you are like me, every Rotary meeting is a reminder of why I belong to this club, why we pledge ourselves to the Four Way Test. This week was no different.

The annual Rotary Coat Drive is underway, and the cold wind that howled into Central Iowa last night emphasized why this effort is so vital in our community. If you haven’t made your pledge to this drive, please do so today.

We were fortunate to have Kellie Markey as a presenter. She is the founder and executive director of Dorothy’s House (http://dorothyshouse.org), a safe place for the practice of life for those teen and youth girls whose lives have been interrupted by the sex trafficking industry.

Wait. I know you want to move onto more pleasant things. Stay with me. I realize the thought of sex trafficking is icky and something we may want to convince ourselves does not happen here. But, Ms. Markey’s message and the mission of Dorothy’s House is one of optimism and, more important, something we all need to take a moment to hear. Our community needs Dorothy’s House, and you will be glad you listened to this.

Ms. Markey began by dispelling a few myths about sex trafficking. Most of the girls and boys – the ratio of those swept up into this dark trade is about 82% girls and 18% boys – are not abducted by men in “white creeper vans,” nor do they leave behind a crime scene that is dusted for fingerprints by a TV-like CSI crew. A person posing as a friend usually lures the victims of sex trafficking. This 'friend' preys upon the victim’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities, listening, being kind, and finding the information those who sell these children to sexual predators use to take advantage of the victim. The road into the sex trade is paved by manipulators who operate in broad daylight, slowly leading these children into things unspeakable.

Dorothy’s House has attempted to help over forty girls regain their footing and restart their lives over the last three years. These young women walked among us, went to our area high schools, and if they had experienced a different turn of events, could have been living happy, and productive lives. Ms. Markey’s team at Dorothy’s House has developed a comprehensive residency program to get these women back-on-track. Both the mental and physical wellbeing of the women are addressed, so they can gain the skills they need to move on with their lives.

 

Dorothy’s House staff navigate a tangled web of social, health, and community services to meet the individual needs of each client they serve. Ms. Markey explained that as difficult as it is to obtain food, housing, and job training support, the main thing lacking in Iowa is the support required to provide the victims of mental and physical torture with a sense of belonging and community. Dorothy’s House is a first and vital part of a critical support network that has been missing.  

Ms. Markey is putting the expertise and experience she gained as an advertising and communications executive to work as a full-time volunteer in our community. After leaving her job as an executive at eBay in the Bay Area of California, Kellie Markey came home to do the most important work of her life. We are fortunate she is expending her time, talent, and treasure to further this most important cause.

Before leaving the meeting, Ms. Markey asked me to tell Rotarians that Dorothy’s House exists on the prayers and support of our community. They can meet their mission because our community is willing to step up and make it possible.

So, this brings me back to where I started. Whether you donate to the Coat Drive, make a contribution to help fund Dorothy’s House’s annual $375,000 budget, support in some way those struggling to get their feet firmly back on the ground, or do any of the thousands of things I know Rotarians do every day to make our world a better place, you are making a difference.

Thanks for sticking with me. Sex trafficking isn’t exactly something any of us want to discuss. But, aren’t you glad to know there are people like Kellie Markey out there working to change things and that there is a way for you to help?

See you next Thursday!