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Palm Coast Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2019 1 month ago

New women's center for sex trafficking victims opens in Palm Coast

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The Family Life Center weighs in on how new nonprofit, The Ruth Home, will coexist here.
by: Paige Wilson Community Editor

Palm Coast resident Laurel Kasco was in an abusive relationship when she was in her 20s. She had to take the risk of getting off her strong anti-seizure medication to get away from the relationship, with help from church leaders. The experience gave her the desire to help other women find freedom. 

“When I got away, I went to police and told them my whole story and so, for me, it’s like full circle,” said Kasco, now the administrator of new Flagler County nonprofit, The Ruth Home. 

The organization is “dedicated to helping young women, ages 18-28, find freedom from life-controlling issues, such as unplanned pregnancy, sexual abuse and sex trafficking,” its website states. 

Donna Sallee, founder and president of The Ruth Home, said that Kasco has been her right-hand woman in the establishment of the nonprofit. 

Sallee moved to Palm Coast in 2015, and recently celebrated the launch of The Ruth Home with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Days Inn in Palm Coast on Saturday, March 30. 

“We just prayed and asked God to send us where he wanted us, and he sent us here,” Sallee said. “I was invited to go to the human-trafficking task force, and that’s where God really showed me the need for housing for these girls.” 

Sallee said her passion for helping women affected by abuse comes from her experience being abused as a child. 

“Because of working with Circuit 7, the Freedom 7 Human Trafficking Task Force, I know where the gaps are, and this is one of the major gaps: housing,” Sallee said. 

Family Life Center Executive Director Trish Giaccone attended the ceremony. The Family Life Center’s mission, according to its website, is “to provide essential support services to individuals and families to end domestic violence and sexual violence in Flagler County.” 

Giaccone said the FLC is funded by an annual state grant of $43,271 to run its sexual violence programs, support of $27,500 annually from Flagler County and personal donations. The Ruth Home is solely funded by donations, Sallee said. 

“We’re totally different ministries. We’re not the same at all,” Sallee said about Family Life Center. 

The Ruth Home is a next-step recovery home that will be able to house six women — from anywhere in the nation — for six to nine months in a program, where they will recover and be taught life skills. To be accepted into the program, the women cannot be drug addicted, which is something Kasco said can be common with victims of sex trafficking and sexual abuse. 

“We do heavy vetting before the girls come,” Sallee said. “They’re going to have to go through two hours of an interview on the phone, paper interview, digital interview and then we’re going to have the trauma therapists work together to decide if they are going to be accepted into the program.” 

Giaccone said The Ruth Home could be a good partner for Family Life Center, for women to transfer into the Ruth’s extended program, if it’s available to them after finishing at the Family Life Center. 

“I’m always excited when there are new programs to assist victims of rape, as well as victims of domestic violence,” Giaccone said. “But I always proceed with caution because I know the care and the tenderness of the victims, and we want to make sure that we’re providing the best care.” 

Giaccone said she hopes there will be enough community generosity for both nonprofits to continue their missions without financial issues. 

“But frankly, I don’t know,” Giaccone said. “It’s a cause for pause. I have to pause and go, ‘I hope so,’ but I just don’t know.” 

The Ruth Home will be run as a “doing business as” under the umbrella of Sallee’s Fresh Hope Ministries, which holds the 501c3. Visit https://theruthhome.org.

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