LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- For Amy Leenerts, two words have become her focus - "human trafficking." The founder of Free2Hope has made it her mission to bring an end to an issue here in Kentuckiana that few want to talk about.
"It is difficult because it's hard to get the conversation started with people," she said. "It's such an ugly subject. People really want to believe it doesn't happen."
Leenerts said she founded Free2Hope five years ago, spurred by her own personal experiences to reach out and tackle an issue she said is infecting the community.
"It was bore out of some things that had happened to me when I was young," she said. "When I finally came to the point of coming to terms with it, I felt like I could do more. I felt like I needed to do more."
Volunteers with Free2Hope spent their Sunday out in the community going to local businesses in areas they said have had reports of human trafficking, hoping to use the businesses to spread information to the public about this problem.
"A lot of people know about it and a lot of people don't know about it," Nadiyah Roberts, a volunteer, said. "They feel like it's more so overseas in a different country type of thing, like it can't happen in the U.S. But yes, it can."
"If we just get a little tiny bit of information out there to the masses, some really big stuff can happen," Leenerts said.
The volunteers said their goal is to pass along information about ways to spot possible human trafficking.
"It just doesn't look right," Leenerts said. "You're going to get one of those feelings in your gut that something's not right."
Free2Hope is also hoping to equip the public with knowledge on what to do if they suspect there is human trafficking activity, something volunteer Johnathan Miller said he wishes he knew back when he used to work in the hotel industry.
"There were situations that I've seen personally, kind of dealt with personally, and it would have been a good time to make a phone call and raise awareness about it," he said. "But I didn't know anything about it at the time."
Above all, Free2Hope said it wants to open a dialogue about a topic that may appear taboo to some, a conversation they hope will lead to change.
"Honestly, if we don't get a hold of this, it's going to risk all of our children's lives," Leenerts said.
"You have to think about it," Roberts said. "What if that was my kid? What if that was my sister or brother? Would you stand for it?"
For more information on Free2Hope, visit their website at free2hope.org.
YMCA Safe Place: call 502-635-5233 or text SAFE and address, city, state to 69866
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888
National Runaway Safeline: 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929)
Missing Children and Child Pornography: 1-800-THE-LOST (843-5678)
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