One of my favorite campus involvements is with Canterbury, William & Mary’s Epsicopal Ministry. Last January, I began attending Bruton Parish, the historic Episcopal church located in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg. There, I met Rev’d Dan McClain, who recruited me to the student group by promising free dinner after the evening service. We joke that people come for the food and stay for the fellowship; it was true for me. A year after I joined, on Saturday, January 25, I had the opportunity to volunteer alongside five other “Canterburians” at the Wine & Roses Gala for Latisha’s House, an organization that rescues and rehabilitates victims of human trafficking.
I was nervous at first; I was wearing a hand-me-down dress, heels I could barely walk in, and I was certain I was going to mess something up. Thanks to the support from the other Canterburians, I not only made it through the night but also had a lot of fun! We checked guests in, ferried items around, and manned the auctions. A silent auction kicked off the gala; elegantly-dressed guests arrived and perused the items laid out on tables. After most attendees had arrived, we ushered everyone into the country club’s event hall for a five-course dinner and the event of the night, the live auction.
Before the live auction, certified traumatologist and Latisha’s House Founder Elizabeth Ameling spoke and shared a video chronicling the story of a survivor who benefited from the services provided by Latisha’s House. I learned a lot: that sex trafficking is rampant along I-95, that women spend 18 months in the Latisha’s House program but that it usually takes three to five years to fully recover from the trauma, and that in spite of the horrors they experienced these women are some of the “strongest and feistiest you’ll ever meet.” It’s abominable that these crimes against humanity take place, especially so close to home. However, it’s incredible that there are people dedicated to eradicating trafficking and doing whatever they can to jail perpetrators and give survivors the lives they deserve.
Over the course of five hours, through the generosity of the 250 or so attendees, the gala raised over $100,000 dollars for the cause. Both the silent and live auctions raised significant portions of money, but it was the paddle raise that inspired me the most. At the end of the night, after the auctions, people had the chance to raise their paddle to contribute certain dollar amounts to three causes: an education fund that would help put survivors through school, a fund for a second car for the house which would provide transportation to work and medical appointments, and a fund for the Hope Village, which would be an affordable shared home for graduates of the program. When I first learned what the paddle raise was, I didn’t think people would contribute much because, unlike the auctions, they weren’t receiving anything in return. I was so wrong! It was amazing! People gave hundreds and thousands of dollars… because they care, because we are part of a kind and generous community, and because part of being human is doing what you can for those who are not as fortunate as you. These are my takeaways from the experience. I’m so glad I got to attend, and I can’t wait to see what I learn next time. 🙂