How often do you hear an inspiring presentation, see a blog about some amazing project, or meet someone on mission for a big kingdom-sized project and say, “I wish I could do that?” For most of my life, I did just that, wished to have a similar story but didn’t step out to see what God would do.
That started to change three years ago.
In November of 2019, shortly after I retired (I like to say “rewired”) from a 40-year career with a global energy company, a friend from NCF suggested I attend their event: Impact 2019.
While there, I heard an inspiring presentation from a dynamic speaker – Heather Tuininga – about the innovative way one group was fighting human trafficking in Washington State.
Heather leads SAFE in Washington (Strategic Alliance to Fight Exploitation). The alliance is composed of businesses, individuals, and nonprofits fighting human trafficking in their part of the country. As two friends and I were walking out of her presentation, we began to talk. We’d learned how big the problem was in our own community. Orlando is the third-worst city in the U.S. for trafficking on a per-capita basis. We felt something had to be done.
Was it our time to step up to solve a problem much bigger than we were? Should we try to create a story of our own?
Since the three of us had no real experience starting something like SAFE up, we began to pray that, if this was to be our mission – God’s mission – he would start opening doors for us.
And the doors opened, lots of them.
Using SAFE in Washington as a model helped. NCF’s Orlando team came alongside to help with networking, and NCF’s national team helped provide structure using the Impact Alliance model. We found an equally passionate supporter in Kyle Cousins, from Mission Increase, who helped us put together our messaging and a funding plan, with all of this happening right in the middle of the first COVID outbreak.
We started by pulling together an advisory council of key leaders and organizations already in the fight.
What we did next, step by step
- We gathered a launch team of influencers, connectors, and subject-matter experts around us in the form of an advisory council. We knew this would take more than just the three of us.
- We pulled together key organizations already in the fight to identify gaps in all aspects of the problem, prevention, intervention, and restoration, to collaborate in identifying the key gaps that need to be filled in fighting human trafficking in our area.
- We sought and evaluated proposals for strategic projects to fill those gaps and pick the most urgent. A former state prosecutor was added to our team to help with this process.
- We began funding projects through our SAFE in Central Florida Giving Fund.
Next, we will evaluate the projects and needs and do it again … and again.
Fast forward to today. With door after door being opened for us, SAFE Central Florida has 60 alliance members. Key nonprofits and law enforcement (frontline partners) are partnering with generous champions (community partners) including churches, businesses, foundations, and individuals – all passionate about eliminating human trafficking here in Central Florida.
Five key projects are being funded in the areas of housing, holistic survivor care (a collaboration of three nonprofits), living- wage employment, re-establishing identities, and building a central database for coordinated survivor services.
We know the problem is complicated and kingdom-sized but stepping out, here (like Heather did in Washington) may not only make a difference for Florida; it might inspire others to ask God to help them create similar stories of their own.
What dream has God given you?