When Jeff Wilbarger told Paul Dobson, Wood County prosecutor, that he wanted to build and operate a home to help girls recover from human trafficking, Mr. Dobson’s initial reaction was one of skepticism.
“When he first told me what he felt God had put on his heart, I thought, ‘What is this guy, crazy?’” Mr. Dobson said. “But then I immediately thought that when Noah started talking to people about what God put on his heart about the Ark, their reaction was probably, ‘What is this guy, crazy?’ So I thought I should listen a little more.”
Mr. Wilbarger’s vision soon will become a reality as construction wraps up on a 3,000-square-foot group home in Wood County that will provide physical, emotional, spiritual, and educational help for girls and women rescued from the sex trade and human trafficking.
For Mr. Wilbarger, a 47-year-old math and physics teacher from the Bowling Green area who is employed at Emmanuel Christian School and local colleges, his efforts to get the Daughter Project up and running never could go fast enough.
He feels an urgency to do something to help these girls, comparing it to the moral equivalent of those who challenged the Nazis in the 1930s and ‘40s or people who fought for civil rights in the 1960s.
From the initial flash of inspiration that came while fasting and praying in 2007, Mr. Wilbarger has managed to incorporate the Daughter Project as a 501(c)3 nonprofit agency, enlisted a board of directors, formed committees to address spiritual, educational, and legal aspects of the program, and rallied a small army of volunteers who donated their time, energy, and materials to build the home.
“Altogether, we’ve raised about $120,000 in terms of direct cash donations from individuals and churches,” Mr. Wilbarger said.
With local businesses donating materials and with volunteers doing much of the labor, the Daughter Project’s house will be valued at about $250,000. The cash investment, meanwhile, was $50,000.
“It’s pretty neat. It’s just incredible,” Mr. Wilbarger said. “The community has really rallied. We’ve probably had 30 different contractors help, and almost all of them donated labor and materials.”
Mr. Dobson said awareness of human trafficking has been on the increase over the last few years, the same time that the Daughter Project was getting started.
“How could it not be from God when he puts this on Jeff’s heart and all of a sudden this becomes an issue of national awareness?” he asked. “That God has placed this humble man in the right position at the right time, and to see organizations from churches to Rotary clubs to private individuals latch on to this and want to be a part of it, has been quite amazing.”
Once construction is finished, the Daughter Project can apply for a group home license from the state. Mr. Wilbarger is optimistic that by the end of the year, girls will be living in the home, whose location is being kept “as quiet as possible” for security concerns. The house can accommodate up to six girls, supervised by three live-in house mothers.
Any expansion by the Daughter Project would involve building more homes rather than adding on to the current one. “Our thinking is we want the home to be small and familylike,” Mr. Wilbarger said, adding that he already has three possible sites for new group homes.
Board member Don Dressel said people who work in the anti-trafficking field have been anxiously awaiting the home’s opening.
“The first three months we were incorporated, we were contacted by the courts asking us to take in girls before we even had a house,” he said.
A teacher at Toledo Christian School, Mr. Dressel said the Daughter Project seeks to meet the girls’ educational, psychological, medical, and emotional needs. Spirituality is an important component of the recovery process as well, he said.
“While their social and emotional needs are immense, there’s definitely a spiritual side to what they’ve been through. They don’t know what real care is about, what real love is, or how men should treat women. Those have probably been issues for them their whole life,” Mr. Dressel said.
On Tuesday, a documentary about human trafficking, Sex & Money: A National Search for Human Worth, will be shown at 6 p.m. at CedarCreek Church, 29129 Lime City Rd., Perrysburg Township, with proceeds benefiting the Daughter Project. More information is available online at thedaughterproject.org.
Contact David Yonke at: email@example.com or 419-724-6154.