More than 300 men and women gathered at the Fashion Island Hotel recently for the sixth annual Priceless Luncheon, hosted by Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice.
The inspiring event raised more than $203,000 for Global Center for Women and Justice and its advocacy and educational programs. It also honored victims and raised awareness of the insidious issue that exists in our community, and around the world.
Community leaders, supporters and anti-trafficking advocates were appreciated, educated and motivated to make a difference in the battle to end the tragedy of human trafficking.
The Global Center for Women & Justice is a faith-based organization that exists to advance the global status of women through research, education, advocacy, collaboration and hope. For fifteen years the Global Center for Women and Justice has provided training and resources to leaders committed to end human trafficking and cyber-exploitation of women and children.
Michael Beals, President of Vanguard University, welcomed the audience and said the opening prayer. He was followed by co-chairs Gwen Hoyt and Helen Steinkamp, who shared their enthusiasm and commitment to create an environment where human trafficking can no longer exist.
Deborah Anderson, Master of Ceremony, greeted the audience and introduced Stacy Jewell, a human trafficking survivor and the writer, director and producer of the award-winning play featured at the Kennedy Center in 2015 called “7 Layers Captive.”
“Stacy was held captive for two years in the violence and abuse of the sex industry,” Deborah said. “She is incredibly talented and fiercely courageous.” Stacy performed an emotional and moving vignette sharing her story.
Keynote speaker Deidre Pujols thanked Vanguard and the Global Center for Women and Justice for standing and fighting for those who don’t have a voice. Deidre is the wife of Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim first baseman. Albert, who was in the audience and is very supportive of Deidre’s efforts, donated one of his signed homerun baseballs, which went for $6,000 during the quick but profitable live auction.
Deidre is the founder of Strike Out Slavery, an awareness event that encourages baseball fans to join the conversation on modern day slavery. She is also CEO and founder of Open Gate International, identifying vocational opportunities throughout the world that will provide vulnerable individuals the opportunity to gain independent economic success. Pujols spoke with passion about her desire to reach those who are trafficked.
“I want to help give them their value and identity back,” Deidre said. “My goal is to have a baseball player on every major league baseball team who can be an ambassador for Strike Out Slavery. No one person, no one group, no law enforcement or government is going to fix this mess; it’s going to be a collaboration of all our efforts. Strike Out Slavery is an alliance platform.”
Dr. Sandra Morgan, Director of the Global Center for Women and Justice, presented the Diamond Award for Outstanding Individual to Bradley Schoenleben, Senior Deputy District Attorney, for serving women and children who have been victims of human trafficking.
The award for Outstanding Organization went to Deidre Pujols and Judy Lamborn of Open Gate International. The Young Leader Award went to Kevin Villicana and Marilyn Arguello.
The Diamond Award is given to individuals and organizations in the greater Orange County area who exhibit exceptional commitment to justice, freedom, and dignity, of all persons.
“Education is what we do at Vanguard,” said Dr. Morgan as she encouraged the audience to study the issue, be a voice and make a difference. “We want to educate people – professionals, community leaders, people like you and me, to identify victims, to equip them to know what to do, to get them out into freedom. We also want to equip the leaders in our schools, government and churches to understand what prevention is. We need to do this in Orange County and globally. No city is immune.”
Dr. Sandra Morgan hosts politicians, professionals and advocates from around the world with cutting-edge best practices in trafficking prevention and changing the laws to prosecute perpetrators and sex purchasers to the fullest extent.
“With this support, we will educate professionals to identify trafficking victims and equip leaders in our community to understand prevention as well as provide scholarships for survivors,” Dr. Morgan said.
The Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force aided 284 victims of human trafficking in 2016, including 210 adults and 74 minors. Most victims are not originally from Orange County; perpetrators bring victims to the area because of local demand.
Cindy can be reached at [email protected].