When Robin Schara and several other women from Eastern Hills Wesleyan Church in Clarence attended the Hands of Hope, a Wesleyan Women's anti-trafficking event held in Indiana back in 2007, they vowed to take a stand and have since joined the fight against modern-day slavery.
As the director of women's and global missions at the church, Schara and company pulled together to form the STOP! (Stop Trafficking of Persons) Task Force with the primary goal of raising awareness.
Sunday night, nearly 30 people gathered at Eastern Hills to listen to several guest speakers from the STOP! Task Force and the International Institute of Buffalo, who provide care for victims of human trafficking.
"When people are more aware," Schara said, "they become more proactive."
Eastern Hills Wesleyan also has formed a community coalition called the Western New York PATH (People Against Trafficking Humans) Coalition as the central communication link for abolitionists in Western New York.
Sunday was a special night as WNY PATH and Eastern Hills Wesleyan were chosen to host "Miles" -- the World's First Abolitionist Spokescar -- as part of its 2011 "Stop the Traffic" Freedom Drive. The speaking car also will collect signatures from those in attendance as a driving petition against human trafficking.
"Miles" is a 1964 Volkswagen Beetle on a mission to travel 2,700 miles to raise $2.7 million for anti-trafficking organizations to represent the estimated 27 million people enslaved throughout the world.
Beginning in Hodgenville, Ky., birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, "Miles" will travel through 15 cities following Lincoln's train route to end slavery before finishing in Washington, D.C.
The event featured the screening of a Kristen Lauterbach's documentary film "Flesh: Bought and Sold in the U.S." The topic is especially meaningful for Eastern Hills Wesleyan since it was founded during the anti-slavery movement in the 19th century.
"We are a 21st century abolitionist church, and we welcome anyone to join us," Schara said.
The main point is that despite the fact that most people think human trafficking is something that happens mainly overseas and in underdeveloped countries, the scary truth is that America has now become the No. 1 destination for sex trafficking, according to the STOP! Task Force.
"Over the past four years in Western New York, more than 300 trafficking victims have been rescued," Schara said. "It's right here in our suburbs."