The Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center was filled with people supporting the second annual Family Outdoor Expo to Combat Human Trafficking event Saturday.
Sponsored by Milton Martin Honda, Hall County Correction Institution, Home Depot, Coleman and Georgia Department of Natural Resources, all proceeds from the event went to fighting domestic sex trafficking and the local ministries leading the fight, Beautiful Feet Ministries, SS Revolution Ministries, BeLoved Atlanta, and Revved Up Kids.
Event organizer Mike Queen, a Hall County Correctional Institution sergeant, was very selective in choosing vendors for the over 50 booths present for the event.
“I honestly don’t think we could put together anything better than this. I tried to make sure I handpicked every booth. It’s all really unique so there’s something everybody enjoys,” Queen said.
Vendors and booths included everything from face painting to handmade jewelry to unique plant creations. A variety of food options were available as well as a silent auction, activities for the family including a children’s workshop provided by Home Depot, and live entertainment by Craig Gleason and Savannah Valentine.
“We are well on our way to making this a major event in the state of Georgia,” said Queen. “When those girls see this they see hope, they see that somebody loves them and there’s somebody behind them that’s going to help them that can help them, that has the means to help them, and that’s something you can’t buy, but means so much to them.”
Competing with other events in the area, Queen and his wife Tina were happy to see the steady flow of people throughout the day.
“This is our second event, and it has grown every year,” Tina said. “It’s just a wonderful thing to be able to help these ministries help these girls. Some of these little girls are raped anywhere from four to 20 times a day. It’s sickening.”
The community awareness of the problem in the area and the ministries helping these women has helped increase support and funding for these programs.
“We need to do what we can do to stop it and make people aware, because people aren’t even aware of how bad it is here in Hall County,” Tina said.
Larry Ledford, an artist from Lula, told others about the event and they joined him on Saturday with booths of their own.
“I love the turnout but I think the community needs to be a little more involved, because it’s a great thing and word needs to get out,” Ledford said.
Ledford enjoyed the venue especially for the shelter it provided as he worked on a painting during the event.
“I think Mike Queen has got something good going. I’m a father. I’ve got a daughter on the way and a 9-year-old, so what (the event is) for, I think any parent should be involved in something like that,” Ledford said.
Alicia Clark, of Dawsonville, plans to donate 10 percent of sales from her Jamberry booth to the Beautiful Feet Ministries.
“It’s a great cause,” Clark said. “To take women that are struggling and transform their lives ... that’s huge. I have two kids, I worry about that.”
Clark was impressed with the way the event came together, and was glad to be a part of it.
“Every vendor I’ve talked to has been like, ‘It’s a great cause, I’m so glad I did it,’” Clark said.