Katie, a young mom with twin daughters and a four-month-old son, came to Wellspring Living for help in October of 2014. Basically homeless and without a high school diploma, Katie was unable to secure a job that would pay enough for childcare. In just two months, through Wellspring’s Empowered Living Academy, she received the educational help she needed in order to pass her GED (high school equivalency test) and get her high school diploma.
In January of 2015, Katie began Wellspring’s career readiness track and was selected for a paid apprenticeship in April. By summer, Katie had secured a full-time job and an apartment. In just a few short months, Katie went from hopeless, homeless, and unemployed to providing a safe home for her children and a career track for herself. Her children now have the chance for a brighter future and can break the cycle of hopelessness that Katie knew before she found a new beginning at Wellspring.
The mission of Wellspring Living is to help domestic sex trafficking victims and those who are ‘at risk’ develop the courage to move forward and the confidence to succeed. Through life-giving residential and community-based programs, girls and young women are provided the opportunity to live and dream again. The driving vision of Wellspring is to end domestic sex trafficking once and for all.
Wellspring Living just celebrated its 15th anniversary of changing the lives of marginalized young women in the Atlanta metro area. Wellspring opened its first residential facility for women ages 18 years and older in 2001, and in 2009, with support from Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and Governor Sonny Purdue, the organization expanded its program to serve girls ages 12 to 17 who are survivors of domestic minor sex trafficking. Three residential homes (safe houses) on two campuses now accommodate 42 young girls/women. An Independent Living Program for graduates of the residential program gives women an opportunity to live in an apartment-style setting while they receive additional life skill training to ensure independent success.
Mary Frances Bowley, the founder and president of Wellspring Living, is the visionary and driving force behind Wellspring’s amazing success. “My drive and passion is to be an advocate for sex trafficking survivors,” says Mary Frances, “to tell their story and provide more services and pathways so they can reach their full potential.” She is quick, however, to deflect praise or take credit for her accomplishments. “It didn’t happen because of one person, but because a community got behind an idea, and did what needed to be done,” recalls Mary Frances.
After the overwhelming response in 2012 to Mary Frances Bowley’s book, “The White Umbrella,” which gives a face to victims of sex trafficking and issues a call-to-action for people and groups to get involved, many across the country contacted Wellspring to get more information on how to open a residential home for victims of sexual exploitation. From this need, Wellspring developed the Wellspring Living Institute to equip, train, mentor, and network with individuals and organizations that want to develop programs addressing issues of sexual exploitation. Presently Wellspring is mentoring over 50 organizations and networking with over 300 groups.
In 2014, in partnership with Randstad and the YMCA, Wellspring launched The Empowered Living Academy, dedicated to providing career, education and life management training at no cost to participants. The program is open to young women between the ages of 18 and 32 who have experienced or are ‘at risk’ to commercial sexual exploitation, are currently drug/alcohol free, and are committed to the curriculum.
Fayette County residents are familiar with the Wellspring Store (Peachtree City Treasures) on Hwy 54 E, next to Publix. One of Wellspring’s four upscale resale boutiques, the Peachtree City store was one of the first revenue sources to benefit Wellspring’s programs and services. Combined, the four stores provide 23 percent of the organization’s much-needed funding. An easy way to get involved is to donate gently used items to the Peachtree City location, volunteer at the store, and, of course, shop there for great bargains!
Another way to get involved and help stop the terrible tragedy of sex trafficking is by purchasing Mary Frances Bowley’s third book, “Make It Zero.” Not only does it inspires hope for the future of these young women caught in the web of sexual exploitation, but it offers specific action points anyone can do to make a difference in the lives of children. For more information on Wellspring Living, go to wellspringliving.org.
The heart of Wellspring Living is to champion young women who are caught in a hopeless cycle of poverty, hunger, isolation and abuse, so they can dream big, live successfully, and reach their full potential.