Striking Photos Convey the Realities of Trafficking at Mingle Event

By: Carrie Swartz, Office Administrator and Race Director

Wine and hors d’oeuvres at Tuft’s Mansion Bed and Breakfast in Neillsville made for an elegant setting at Fierce Freedom of Central Wisconsin’s kickoff event on Saturday, June 30, 2018. The “Mingle” was open to the public. Guests had an opportunity to learn about human trafficking and exploitation and to connect with the new organization.

“Our goal was to bring awareness to our community about human sex trafficking and to let people know what Fierce Freedom represents. Clark County is small, and a lot of people don’t know that kind of thing is happening around us,” said Jess Reints, Fierce Freedom of Central Wisconsin Board President. The event was also an opportunity for the organization to connect with community members about what kinds of educational events or resources would be most beneficial to the community.

Large, striking black and white photographs set up around the venue contrasted the elegant décor of the mansion; a teenage girl curled up with a “for rent” sign in front of her, a close-up shot of the bare feet of a young girl in a large pair of women’s high heels standing in front of a man wearing dirty boots. Board members had taken staged photos of friends and family, and then used them as conversation pieces at the event. The photographs and other materials were placed at stations where guests could converse with board members about the topic.

“We would ask, ‘How does this picture make you feel? What do you think this quote means?’ We would chat with them more about the facts in our area,” explained Reints. During a more formal presentation later in the event, short vignettes were read aloud to tell the (fictitious) stories behind a few of the photographs. “It was an intimate setting that we tried to make really powerful to get our point across,” continued Reints.

Amy Rakestraw, Vice President of the Fierce Freedom of Central Wisconsin Board, described one of the photos, “One of the most powerful pictures was of Jess’s daughter who was seven. She had a hand over her mouth and her eyes were popping out like she was scared. It showed what it can be like. It’s not something they want to happen.”

Guests were also invited to participate in a basket raffle, purchase Fierce Freedom merchandise, or give a donation. Baskets were donated from Wood County, Clark County, and Jackson County, as well as various individuals and businesses. “We were really surprised and pleased with how many people wanted to donate. We had a good variety of high-quality baskets valued from $50 up to $400,” said Reints. The raffle and donations totaled about $600 for the organization.

Reints and Rakestraw were pleased with the response they received from the community, and with the connections the organization was able to make with various community members. Reints summed up the impact of the event, “It was a pretty upbeat event, but you could tell that everyone kind of left with a heavy heart. (The response) was that they are there to support us and will continue to support us in what we need to do for our small town community. Thank you to the community for their support- we are looking forward to being able to get out there more.”

If you would like to connect with Fierce Freedom of Central Wisconsin, you can email Jess Reints at jess.reints@fiercefreedom.org or Amy Rakestraw at amy.rakestraw@fiercefreedom.org. You can also send a message on facebook to “Fierce Freedom of Central Wisconsin” or call 715-937-1545.