Portage dentist office supports victims of human trafficking

Portage dentist office supports victims of human trafficking. (WWMT Franque Thompson)

A local dentist's office wants to end human trafficking in Michigan and is selling hand-made holiday ornaments made by survivors to raise awareness.

Women at Risk International (WAR Int’l) supports women, children and men who were rescued from human trafficking. Scott Ellard Dentistry in Portage is helping the organization by selling holiday ornaments hand-made by survivors, which help fund services for the survivors reclaim their lives.

Alyssa Wenzel, Scott Ellard Dentistry, said, “This is a real danger, it's not just in movies. It's happening. Michigan is one of the top states at risk.”

Michigan remains in the top 10 states in the country for human trafficking with 136 cases reported last year.

Not everyone likes a trip to the dentist. All the poking, brushing, flossing and bright lights keeps some people away, but the staff at Scott Ellard Dentistry says healthy teeth aren't the only reason they hope more will stop by their office.

They're also creating awareness about human trafficking and sharing the mission of WAR Int’l with some holiday spirit.

A tree in the dental office lobby is decorated with Egyptian hand-blown glass ornaments and each of them made by survivors of human trafficking.

The abuse and exploitation is what staffers say more people should be cautious of.

Wenzel said, “I have four daughters. To think of them being at risk and not having resources, not having awareness. Constantly letting them know to be aware of their surroundings.”

Ornaments are on sale for $15, $18 and $20. All proceeds go to WAR Int’l to fund services and programs to support survivors.

Wenzel said, “Resume dignity and hope to those that have been affected by human trafficking

They say they're taking a stand all year against the growing crime, not just for the holiday season.

Kim Rabb-Gianakis, Scott Ellard Dentistry, said, “We've received specialized training so that we're able to identify those that come into our office that might be at risk. We're also liable to report any problems that we might see.”

The staff says all are welcome to their office to buy an ornament.

WAR Int’l has trees at companies throughout West Michigan for those who want to support the cause.

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