The 2nd Annual Garden Gate Ranch fundraising gala was held the evening of April 13th. The event welcomed close to 800 guests, all wanting to support the efforts of Garden Gate Ranch to address the very real need to serve survivors of trafficking here in the Des Moines area. The powerful information shared that night generated a mobilizing energy and contributions totaling more than $415,000.
Garden Gate Ranch’s Founder and Executive Director, Brenda Long, was the first to share, starting with the mission of Garden Gate Ranch:
PROVIDING A PATHWAY TO HOPE, RESTORATION, EMPOWERMENT, DIGNITY, AND PURPOSE FOR THE SEXUALLY EXPLOITED AND SEX-TRAFFICKED WOMEN.
Brenda shared her personal testimony on how she has transformed the vision God gave her into her personal mission. She followed this with the exciting announcement that just a week prior to the gala, Garden Gate Ranch had settled on a property—around 15 acres and a 7,000 square foot finished home that will open soon. This was yet another testimony of God’s provision.
Brenda shared that the property was assessed at close to $1 million, though the owners felt very strongly that the future of the property was to help women in need. They made a substantially-reduced offer to Garden Gate Ranch—$400,000—though this was still out of reach of the current operating budget. Around this same time, a significant donor contributed $150,000 to Garden Gate Ranch, which could then be applied to the purchase of the property. Garden Gate Ranch’s remaining cost for the property would be $250,000. With the proceeds from the gala, Garden Gate Ranch is closer to its goal of staffing the facility 24/7 when it does open. God continues to overcome obstacles for this organization that aligns with His desires: to see women set free.
Governor Kim Reynolds, who was unable to attend, provided a video testimony supporting Garden Gate Ranch’s efforts and graciously asked for those attending to do the same.
One of the most powerful testimonies of the evening came from a courageous, strong, young woman named Heather. She asked the crowd to take in their surroundings—the carpet, the smells, the sounds of planes flying overhead, and the temperature…these were all things she focused on when she was trafficked at that exact hotel almost 7 years ago.
Heather was forced into trafficking through her college boyfriend, who had also been manipulated into the industry through someone he referred to as his “dad.” She found herself in an extremely vulnerable position and did not know how to get out. For years, she continued studying as a college student during the day and then was forced to work for her boyfriend and his “dad” at night.
When Heather did finally leave, her traffickers tracked her down and threatened her life multiple times. She returned to her boyfriend, trafficked once more, but was able to eventually leave for good. She continues to take obedient steps forward toward health and restoration.
Just before receiving a standing ovation, Heather plead with the crowd to support Garden Gate Ranch’s cause; had there been a home open when she needed it, she may have avoided years of additional abuse and trauma. Many hearts were moved by her very personal story.
Ruth Buckels, the final presenter of the evening, is the reason Heather was able to get free. Ruth is a foster parent, having adopted 22 foster children, in addition to raising her birth children. She first became aware of human trafficking in Iowa through one of her original foster daughters and has been deeply involved in the fight ever since. She is the example of what one person can do, especially when it comes to speaking the truth.
The truth, as shared by Ruth, is that statistics show that the average buyer in the U.S. is white, college-educated, and over 40. She acknowledged that, statistically, there could be buyers in the room.
Trafficking preys on the vulnerable, and Ruth shared that this audience can include buyers. She shared an example of an unsuspecting buyer being videotaped or photographed, then having this information held against him (or her) with the threat of blackmail. To keep the secret from their family or employer, the buyers find themselves caught in a trap. Then the cycle of supply and demand, and the trauma and devastation that goes along with it, continues.
Ruth also shared stories of hope, including Heather’s. Women stripped of their identity and dignity can be restored, though it takes time, patience, support, education, nurturing, love, and stability. All of these needs will be provided through the services of Garden Gate Ranch—for the love of each one.
So, what can you do? How can you help? There are several ways:
- Educate yourself. The Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking (www.INAHT.org) website is a great starting resource. Share what you’re learning with those in your network.
- Learn more about the organizations involved with front-line support, including Garden Gate Ranch. Follow Garden Gate Ranch on Facebook.
- Volunteer. Every organization not only survives but thrives through those whose hearts align around a common cause. Find out how you can get involved with Garden Gate Ranch on their website: http://www.gardengateranch.com/get-involved.html
- Give. Every dollar counts. http://www.gardengateranch.com/give.html
Contributor: Barb Ranck, volunteer, on behalf of Garden Gate Ranch