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Mercy Gate Ministries hosting Keys to Freedom Fundraiser

April 15, 2024 - 13:55
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Mercy Gate Ministries, a nonprofit that aids women escaping sex trafficking and abuse, will host the Keys to Freedom Fundraiser from 6-8 p.m. Monday at the 11th Street Cowboy Bar in Bandera. 

The event will feature a talk from a survivor of sex trafficking, music by Dennis Alan and appetizers by Brick’s River Cafe. Admission is free. 

“Most people in Kerr County and Bandera County don’t want to think something like this happens here,” Mercy Gate Ministries Founder and Executive Director Chae Spencer said. “But it does.”

The faith-based nonprofit serves women across five counties including Kerr, Bandera, Medina, Kendall and Gillespie, and offers residential and nonresidential programming, court advocacy for adult women, counseling, equine therapy, bible studies and more, Spencer said.

“It’s all encompassing,” Spencer said. 

This will be the second year of the event and organizers hope for a larger crowd and to raise $15,000. Resource Specialist Florence Hartsfield said it takes about $24,000 a year to feed the women that the nonprofit helps. And the organization also needs to invest in a new 15-passenger van.

“It’s just an opportunity to make them aware of what we do,” Hartsfield said of the fundraiser. “People can donate, even if they can’t come they can still give.”

The highlight of Monday’s event will be hearing from a woman who was helped by Mercy Gate Ministries. Spencer said the woman had been trafficked in a town much the same size as Bandera and the woman’s abuser was arrested, convicted and sentenced to two 30-year prison terms. 

“We act as a second responder for rescues,” Spencer said. “But also sting operations. We also work heavily with law enforcement.”

Spencer said the nonprofit’s clients find them in a number of ways, sometimes by referral from another organization or the court system, but also the organization’s website. 

She said as recently as December, the organization received an email from a girl asking for help. The girl reported that she was being trafficked and had been gang raped in Bandera County, Spencer said. 

“We got her safe and then we got her out of the state,” Spencer said, adding that Mercy Gate collaborated with two other organizations to help this girl.

Hartsfield said Mercy Gate Ministries began 2023 with the opening of a second residential home, the Haven, that sleeps up to 12 women survivors. 

Also in 2023, the nonprofit launched its Court Appointed Adult Victim Advocate program and began offering courtroom training for victim defendants of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. Mercy Gate’s advocates and mentors were able to help 27 women who were exploited but also found themselves defendants in the court system.

The nonprofit also created a mentorship program, and now four mentors go into the jails to work with women who have been trafficked, Hartsfield said.

According to the Mercy Gate’s 2023 Annual report, the organization handled 107 crisis cases and responded to 92 inmate requests, accepted 40 women into the residential program and 24 into the non-residential program.

In 2024, the nonprofit plans to launch a new life skills program, Spencer said. 

She said most women who are trafficked and sexually abused were also exploited as children and also adolescents. 

“Many, many women in our program have been passed around their own families,” Spencer said. “It’s hard for people to hear. It’s really not something we want to talk about. It’s really important that we address it.”

Mercy Gate Ministries also accepts donations through its website at