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Human Trafficking in Toledo

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Human trafficking is a huge problem in our region. In fact, experts say Toledo is one of the biggest source cities for the crime. But an organization called The Daughter Project is working to help some of the youngest victims. On Thursday,  the group held an awareness luncheon at The University of Toledo. 

According to the FBI, Toledo is 4th in the nation for most arrests and prosecutions of human trafficking, so progress is being made, but it is still an enormous problem that most people don't even know exists.

Jeff Wilbarger has spent more than a quarter century as a math teacher, but after reading a book about human trafficking, he became an activist, "This is big money for organized crime. I've heard statistics that say it's the second biggest behind drugs."

Jeff and his wife started The Daughter Project. They operate a recovery home for girls between the ages of 10 and 17 who are sex trafficking survivors, but they are working to build more, "We're proud to say, but at the same time sad to say, we are the only adolescent recovery home in Ohio. We are the only place helping these kids in our state so we're excited about the prospect of future homes."

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates there are at least 100,00 children in the United States who are enslaved to traffickers.  While there are victims of it right here in our community, Jeff says many of them are taken elsewhere, "It's not that we don't have girls enslaved right here, but the traffickers and pimps are taking many of them out of our community to places like Miami and Las Vegas. Part of the reason is that they get more money in those cities and the other part is that it keeps the girls disoriented."

Kristie Grandsko is a volunteer mentor at the home,"I get to play games with them, help cook, home school the girls and have relationships with them like I would with my own daughter. It is so nice to see them laughing and smiling and making fun of me like my own daughter does, I love the bond, they're my girls!"

They have a big fundraiser coming up on October 19th at The University of Toledo. It's a comedy show called, "Free to Laugh, Laugh to Free." The show will be in 7 cities including San Francisco, Charlotte, Baltimore and Toledo. All of the money raised here in Toledo goes to The Daughter Project.

 

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