LAKE WYLIE — Sex trafficking may not be the easiest subject to discuss. But beginning on Independence Day, it will be easier to do something about it.
“We’ve done some fundraising events in the past,” said Mark Blackwell, founder of Charlotte-based Justice Ministries. “But with a home tour, this is a pretty unique opportunity.”
For six days during two weekends, a new Lake Wylie home will feature homebuilding and decorating trends. All proceeds will go to Justice Ministries, a nonprofit started in 2010 to combat sex trafficking and sexual exploitation with a focus on rescue and housing.
Kansas-based TLConcepts began its Home of Distinction program in 2003. Builders, artisans, craftsmen and decorators show off building and design ideas at new homes throughout the country. Home tours partner with a charity. Previous Charlotte-area homes include a 2009 build on Mountain Island Lake and a 2007 construction in Weddington, N.C.
A dozen partners came together to build, furnish, decorate and promote the Home of Distinction on Lake Wylie. The 3745 Rivergrass Lane address is a new construction in Handsmill. It’s a 4,000-square-foot mountain lodge style home located on a private Lake Wylie cove.
Jan Blanton, with Shelby, N.C.-based Walker Woodworking, is one of the dozen partners. Like the others she hopes to promote the best her business has to offer through the tour, but helping Justice Ministries was a big reason for participating.
“Joining with Everett Homes and Justice Ministries is a great opportunity to showcase our cabinets for the public to see and generate funds for a worthy nonprofit organization,” Blanton said.
Charlotte sex trafficking
Fresh out of college when he began Justice Ministries, Blackwell mostly met blank stares when discussing sexual exploitation, especially when he tried telling people there’s sex trafficking in Charlotte and the Carolinas.
“The awareness has increased tremendously over the last two years,” Blackwell said. “We still have a ways to go in our education.”
Justice Ministries served 70 clients the past two years. They provide a hotline, case management and transitional housing. They do street outreach and contact women posting services online. Volunteers and staff do strip club outreach, where Blackwell says not everyone is a victim but some may be.
“But, it’s kind of a gateway,” he said. “And a lot of girls who are in that industry, they know somebody who is or is at-risk.”
Blackwell’s goal is to put himself out of a job by ending exploitation. But he’s as committed now as when he began to working as long as there is a need.
“I felt like God was calling me to do it,” he said.
John Marks • 803-831-8166