Local Human Trafficking Awareness Month in full swing | CullmanSense

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Human Trafficking Awareness Month in full swing

Karma’s Coffee House owner Katie Fine and Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force Chairwoman Kathy Wilson at the task force’s table at the coffee shop Thursday / W.C. Mann

CULLMAN - January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and Thursday, Jan. 11 was Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the United States.  The City of Cullman issued a proclamation supporting both the significance of the day and the work of the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force. 

On Thursday, the City issued the following  press release:

On Thursday, January 11, 2018, Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs officially proclaimed January 11, 2018, “Human Trafficking Awareness Day” in the City of Cullman.  On hand to accept the proclamation from Mayor Jacobs were Kim Chaney (Task Force member and Cullman County District Court Judge), Kathy Wilson (Task Force Chair and Cullman County Juvenile Probation Officer), and Jacob and Katie Fine (Owners, Karma’s Coffee House).

“The work the Task Force is doing is very important in bringing awareness to human trafficking and to helping prevent this terrible crime from happening in Cullman and Cullman County,” said Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs.

Also, for the second consecutive year Karma’s Coffee House is partnering with the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force to help raise awareness and educate the public on the warning signs of human trafficking.  The task force is set up at Karma’s today (January 11th) with information on what they do and how we can all help.  Also, Karma’s is donating 10% of all sales on January 11th to the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force.

Human trafficking, often referred to as “modern-day slavery,” involves the use of coercion, force, or fraud to get victims to perform labor or commercial sex acts against their will. The majority of victims are pre-teens or teenagers.  Human trafficking is a large and thriving criminal industry that can be found throughout the world.  The Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force was organized to work with local law enforcement and other agencies to help prevent human trafficking in our community.  They strive to increase awareness by holding public meetings and sponsoring community events designed to educate the public on human trafficking.  They also advocate for changes in local, regional, and state policies related to human trafficking.  The volunteer task force is made up of individuals from various departments and agencies throughout the community.

The Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force cautions people to understand that young victims are often lured into traps by people they consider friends, or even by family members.  Also, because of our close proximity to the Interstate and other major highways, Cullman is a prime location for perpetrators of human trafficking.

The City’s proclamation was task force chairwoman Kathy Wilson’s second of the week; she received a similar statement from the Cullman County Commission Tuesday morning during its meeting.

After Wilson received the proclamation at Cullman City Hall Thursday, she made her way to Karma’s Coffee House to work the group’s table, speak with interested visitors, and distribute information.  There, The Tribune caught up with her to get an update on the task force. 

She shared, “January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, all month long.  Today is actually Awareness Day, nationwide.  So Karma’s Coffee House partnered with us last year to do the exact same thing: they allowed us to come into their facility, bring our booth, our information, and this year they have generously donated 10 percent of their profits today to our task force.  (Owner) Katie (Fine)’s a great partner; she is a great community partner.  She cares about her community. 

“We’ve had two arrests this past year for human trafficking.  I attribute that to the fact they we’re raising awareness. 

“Because of this event, I was contacted by Hampton Inn, who has asked me to come and train their employees.  So we’ve got more and more trainings that we’re starting to do. 

“Judge (Kim) Chaney and I will be on the radio, speaking at the end of this month, just raising awareness.  We’ve got a lunch session with The Link coming up in February.  I will be going to Moulton to do a panel discussion on a human trafficking awareness event that they’re having in February, also.

“The State Human Trafficking Summit is Feb. 8 and 9 in Montgomery; a $75 registration fee, open to anyone who wants to attend, and it’s always very, very good. 

“Lynn Caffery, who runs Tennessee Valley Youth Services--it’s out of Huntsville; it is actually a home that she runs for homeless teens and trafficked teens--she is actually a survivor (of human trafficking).  She is going to come on Feb. 28 to our noon meeting and tell her story.”  (That meeting will take place in Judge Chaney’s courtroom on the second floor of the Cullman County Courthouse.)

“We stay busy.  We’re going to go with Brooks’ Place into the city school system and train some of their parents.  Because of Aaron’s Law, they’re required to go.  Brooks’ Place does that, and they’ve asked us to go with them.  It’s about sexual abuse, and then we’re tagging human trafficking along with it.”

When asked about the people she works with, Wilson exclaimed, “The people that are on the task force are incredible!  Any time we have an event, they volunteer; just like today, I’ve got volunteers to sit all day.  We do the fair, 10 days . . .  10 long days!  I’ve got volunteers that work that booth the entire time.

“They’re very busy people also.  They have their own jobs, but they’ve committed to help us to raise awareness and help educate people, and they’re a great, great group of people.

“Judge Chaney is a huge supporter, a huge supporter.  He was with us this morning signing proclamations; he was with us Tuesday at the county commission.  He goes out with me, we speak in public together.  He’s always there.  (Cullman County District Attorney) Wilson Blaylock helped start the task force, so hats off to him for helping us get it started.

“And we’ve been in business now about three years.  All of the money raised goes right back into the community for education purposes and awareness events.”

For more information about the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force, visit www.facebook.com/Cullman-County-Human-Trafficking-Task-Force, or email [email protected].

For more information on human trafficking in Alabama, visit www.enditalabama.org or www.stnow.org.

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  • Photo courtesy City of Cullman
    L-R: Jacob and Katie Fine of Karma’s Coffee House, task force chairwoman Kathy Wilson, Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs and Judge Kim Chaney
  • Photo courtesy City of Cullman
    The proclamation issued by the City of Cullman on Thursday