GULF BREEZE, Fla. (WKRG) — Sex trafficking survivors are heading to Pensacola Beach this weekend as part of a retreat to raise awareness for the growing issue of sex trafficking.
Meanwhile, a new gift shop in Gulf Breeze is working to support the fight against the growing problem right here in our area.
What is now Magdalene’s Gifts and Gatherings in Gulf Breeze was once a hot spot for sex trafficking in Santa Rosa County.
“This was a massage parlor that women lived in who were being sex trafficked,” said Josie Cotti with the gift shop.
The massage parlor was shut down and its owner David Williams was sent to prison.
After his arrest, a group of concerned citizens came together to secure the building and now sell gifts there. The proceeds go to help end sex trafficking and support its survivors.
“We all knew something we couldn’t unknow, and so we had to make a difference,” Cotti said. “We had to stop and say, ‘No. This isn’t going to happen here. We’re not going to settle to say that we were going to let this continue in our backyard.’”
The staff at Magdalene’s are volunteers, and the proceeds from its gifts sales will eventually go to building a home with resources for sex trafficking survivors and establishing a continuum of care for them.
“They’re going to need special love and care, so that’s our desire to have a program that walks them through their physical needs and their mental health needs,” Cotti said.
The gift shop is at the corner of College Parkway and Fordham Parkway.