KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Lee Gibson said his current job sounds like the beginning of a bad joke: a police officer, a baseball player and a blind woman walk into a store together. But the trio’s purpose is a lot more serious than Gibson ever imagined.
The former police officer and firefighter founded Relentless Pursuit Outreach and Recovery after reading a friend’s research paper on human sex trafficking around Kansas City, Missouri.
His nonprofit’s goal is to end sex trafficking from Harrisonville to St. Joseph by coordinating with social services, law enforcement, outreach groups and more.
“I can’t think of a more evil crime than selling another human,” Gibson said.
Relentless Pursuit purchased a building at 5102 Independence Ave. where it plans to open Christine’s Place by mid-December.
Christine’s Place will be a drop-in center for sex trafficking victims. A place where they can get clothing, food and a shower for free. There will be counselors on hand to help them escape the sex exploitation world when they’re ready.
“I’d drive up and down these streets, see a girl, I’d want to grab her and say, ‘Let me put you in a hotel, let me give you some money, let me find you a job.’ That’s just not the right answer,” Gibson explained. “You have to come alongside and be there for them when they need you. The only way to do that is to be out here building a relationship with them and giving them a safe place, not pushing anything on them and when they’re ready, hopefully, they’ll come to us.”
The blind woman in the story is Christine McDonald. She escaped sex trafficking after 17 years of “working” on Independence Avenue. She lost her sight due to an unrelated medical condition a few years after escaping.
“I used to always think one day there is going to be a place for people like us, somebody is going to care one day and I didn’t think it would be me,” McDonald admitted.
Christine’s Place is named after her. She knows how much of a difference a drop-in center can make.
“If we do for one what we wish we could do for many, together, united, we get to change not only our community and our city but our nation and eventually our world,” she said confidently.
The last member of the team is the baseball player: Adam LaRoche.
He grew up in Fort Scott, Kansas, about 100 miles south of Kansas City. After his Major League Baseball days ended, he dedicated more time to his E3 Foundation. It has two goals - to help veterans and to end human sex trafficking.
He said it’s important for victims of sex trafficking to know they’re not alone.
“Start to give them some hope and let them know people care about them and there is a different type of love than the love they’re used to seeing,” LaRoche said.
LaRoche and Gibson, who are both fathers to daughters, have bigger plans for the property. Those plans include a crisis shelter, named after Mike Daniels, to house prostituted women rescued from their situations by law enforcement or whomever.
They’re asking for financial support and recently launched an $18 dollar campaign. The campaign asks as many people as possible to donate $18 per month. You can donate on the non-profit’s website.
Gibson wanted to thank businesses like Guier Fence and Midwest Roofing, plus churches like The Rock KC, Westside Family Church, Church of the Nazarene and Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, who have made donations and volunteered many hours to open Christine’s Place.