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An Orange City-based group dedicated to combating human trafficking awarded a $15,000 grant to Children’s Home Society of Florida to help provide safe houses and shelter for trafficking victims in Volusia and Flagler counties.

The grant was the culmination of this year’s fundraising efforts by the HOPE (Helpers of People Enslaved) Team, a coalition of West Volusia churches committed to ending a practice that has been labeled modern-day slavery.

The funds will aid the efforts of Children’s Home Society to provide up to nine months of housing, job training and resettlement to mainly young-adult victims.

The group is particularly targeting men and women 18 to 22 years old who are being held against their wills in the sex trade or forced labor.

In announcing the award, HOPE Chairwoman Debbie Myers said victims who manage to escape their enslavement often have nowhere to turn for protection and assistance with rebuilding their lives.  

This is the fourth year HOPE has awarded funds to a charity group.

Since the nonprofit’s founding in 2013, more than $44,000 in victim-relief grants have been awarded, Myers noted.

Children’s Home Society Regional Executive Director Tracy McDade and Program Director Sue Haley stressed that the grant will expand their mentoring and rehabilitation services for young-adult victims.

Their aim is to limit the provision of housing to nine months, to provide an incentive to victims to achieve independence.

Orange City Mayor Gary Blair, Vice Mayor Bill Crippen and Council Members Bill O’Connor and Anthony Pupello attended the award ceremony at Orange City United Methodist Church, as did HOPE board members and founders.

The HOPE Team has members from eight local churches.

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