GEORGETOWN — It's just Chapstick, but volunteers at Faith Baptist Church hope it will serve as balm for the soul.
"Have you felt forced or tricked into stripping, having sex or other acts? There is hope. 1-888-3737-888 www.rescueandrestore" reads the message that volunteers spent several hours last week taping to hundreds of tubes of Chapstick.
The Chapsticks will be distributed to Central Kentucky truck stops, rest rooms and hotels in hopes that the women, men and children who are being sexually exploited will find them and call the hot-line number and seek help.
Rescue and Restore, a national non-profit, operates the hot line and any calls to the number from Kentucky are referred to the head of the Kentucky Rescue and Restore coalition, Marissa Castellanos. Once someone is rescued or escapes, Rescue and Restore works with them to provide shelter, counseling and whatever they need to become independent and stable, Castellanos said.
First Baptist Church Pastor Bob Fox admits human trafficking and sexual exploitation seem a little out of the bounds of mainstream church topics.
"It's ugly, it's horrible, it's terrible," he said. "It's something people don't talk about so people get away with it."
"But human dignity and human freedom and human lives are important God," he said. "Our church has a real commitment to helping people in trouble."
The Chapstick project is just the latest effort by the church.
"Our church has tried over the years to try to become more and more informed about human trafficking," said Regan Lookadoo, who helped organize the Chapstick effort.
"This issue of becoming educated and advocating is at the core of our faith-based organization," she said. "We should try to seek justice for those who are trafficked," Lookadoo, a psychology professor at Georgetown College, said church members who teach at the college have also been working on educating the college campus about trafficking, too.
The Chapsticks were wrapped last Saturday. And on the following Sunday, Castellanos gave a talk both before church's worship service and during the service. Fox said children were excluded from the pre-church talk which dealt frankly with realities of human trafficking.
In her talk Castellanos praised the churches efforts and laid out other opportunities to help. For example, she suggested the church adopt a spot in Scott County to stock with the Chapsticks on a regular basis. She said over the last five years there have been 100 cases of trafficking in Kentucky, about one third of those were in Central Kentucky.
Marco Antonio Flores-Benitez ,thought to be the first person in Kentucky convicted of federal sex trafficking charges, was sentenced last year. He and several other men ran a prostitution ring that lured Spanish-speaking women with the promise of a legitimate job, then forced them into the sex trade. According to a Herald-Leader story some of the defendants drove and delivered the prostitutes to customers in Fayette, Woodford, Oldham and Jefferson counties. They also operated a brothel at Cross Keys Drive in Lexington.
Fox said it is hard to think about horrible things happening in your own community. But, he said, Jesus showed by example how the most downtrodden deserve kindness and assistance.
"We think that an important part of telling people about Jesus is helping them out," he said, even if it's anonymously. Faith Baptist isn't mentioned on the wrappers church members spent hours affixing.
Fox thinks that is as it should be.
"We are not building church attendance, we are trying to serve God."
Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: BluegrassMoms.com.