The all male Knights of Columbus of Manatee and Sarasota are turning their charitable attention toward the plight of females being victimized by sex trafficking in southwest Florida, considered to be a hotspot of human trafficking in the U.S.
The beneficiary of the fundraiser is Selah Freedom.
“They want to help,” said Frank Ward, a member in other Knight chapters for more than 50 years.
Selah Freedom, whose national headquarters is in Sarasota, has safe houses across Sarasota and Manatee counties that help sex trafficking victims make the transition from being a victim to renewing their own self worth. What began as a grassroots effort in 2010 has blossomed into an organization that functions on four foundational programs: awareness, prevention, outreach and residential.
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Ward said the Knights will hold a car show from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at St. Francis Cabrini Church, 120001 69th St., in Parrish. The car show will feature about 150 vehicles and the event will include food, music and raffles.
It is free to attend, but proceeds from the raffles and food sales will go to Selah Freedom’s efforts to purchase more property in Manatee County for a new facility that can help up to 14 more sex trafficking victims get into their recovery programs.
“It’s the first time we’ve put something like this on,” said Ward. “I don’t know what will happen, but hopefully we can build on it.”
The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternity, was established in 1882 as a way to help families who lost their bread winners to factory accidents. They have long since expanded their charitable efforts.
“These guys went down and saw what Selah Freedom is doing,” Ward said. “A lot of people think this kind of thing happens in other parts of the world, so a lot of them were surprised at what they learned and they were impressed with Selah Freedom’s mission. That was the motivation behind this.”
Vanessa Morris, Selah Freedom director of awareness, said the organization is grateful to partner with the Knights of Columbus, “to raise awareness about our mission and to end sex trafficking and bring freedom to the exploited.”
Morris said to see a male organization rise up with such dedication and passion to become a voice for the voiceless is especially heartfelt.