Black-tie event helps human trafficking survivors start new life

aheymann@vagazette.com

A Valentine’s Day gala featuring live music from the Hullabaloos, silent and live auctions, champagne and wine, a cash bar, hors d'oeuvres and a five-course plated candlelight dinner will benefit Latisha’s House.

“It is the best black-tie event in Williamsburg,” said Elizabeth Ameling, founder and executive director of Latisha’s House.

Latisha’s House is a safe house for survivors of sex trafficking. The gala raises money for education and emergency medical and mental health services for those at Latisha’s House.

“Ninety-six percent of our funding really just goes to the house and the women in our program,” Ameling said. She added this is possible because everyone at Latisha’s House volunteers their time and skills.

Victoria McWhorter, a former social worker, has been volunteering her time to help with the gala, asking for and picking up donations. She said people in the area have become very supportive of the foundation

“They are very glad to hear that such a house exists because it's becoming very much in the forefront of people’s (minds) that this is happening, that sex trafficking is happening in the States,” McWhorter said. “People used to think it just happened in other countries.”

Unlike many safe houses, which provide a maximum of 90 days of housing, Latisha's House provides holistic, long-term care for its survivors.

“Everything from trauma-based counseling, to classes, to job training, financial literacy, and then if a woman goes through our program we pay for her school and college so they have a new career and a new future,” Ameling said.

Ameling said if a woman in the program is making progress, Latisha’s House will pay for all of her college expenses, from books and tuition to a laptop and tutoring.

“Our long-term goal is women come into our house broken, and they leave enabled to be successful anywhere,” Ameling said. “We raise most of our money for education at our gala.”

The auction items feature a trip to Tuscany, Italy; about $2,000 worth of local dining gift cards; jewelry; and romantic weekends for two.

“But the community has been amazing. Everything in our auction has been donated by someone,” Ameling said. “We’re at 110 items I think at this point.”

Last year, the gala raised $88,000 for survivors of sex trafficking, according to a news release. This year, Latisha’s House hopes to raise $100,000.

“Every woman who graduates from a cosmetology school or culinary school is a life that changes forever, and it impacts generations,” Ameling said. “If they have children, their children see that. I mean, it’s a gift that keeps giving.”

Want to attend?

Latisha’s House Valentine’s Gala will run from 5:30-9 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Two River’s Country Club, 1400 Two Rivers Road.

Single tickets are $150 each, and tables can be purchased for $2,000-$10,000.

You can purchase tickets at latishashouse.com. For more information, call 757-346-5344.

Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.

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