Graduate sets groundwork for new non-profit

It’s a dark world claiming the innocence of tens of thousands of children, but Brooke Crowder isn’t afraid of the darkness. She is creating a refuge so the young victims have a place to go and recover.

“We’ve got to do something. There’s no place for these children to heal after they’re rescued,” says Crowder. “There’s this big, gaping hole.”

Brooke Crowder, ACC Graduate, at the Texas Capitol.

Crowder learned about the extent of child sex trafficking after moving to Costa Rica in 2006. She discovered American children weren’t safe from the scourge when she returned home four years later.

There are 46,000 children reported missing each year in Texas. It is estimated that one in seven of those children are or will become victims of sex trafficking.

Crowder decided to take action. In 2013, she registered for Austin Community College’s Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership and Management (CNLM) program to develop the skills to establish and manage a nonprofit organization.

She shared with her classmates her dream to develop a safe place for victims to heal. Together, they developed the framework for The Refuge for Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking.

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“I spent 24 years working with non-profits, but I didn’t have the confidence to start one on my own,” says Crowder. “This team changed my mind. I had all their support. Soon the whole community had our back.

“We got incorporated quickly. We landed our tax-exempt status in just two months. We raised close to $300,000 with in-kind donations.”

Fifty acres in Bastrop County have been donated for the Refuge, and Crowder is working to get permits and licenses. She expects to break ground in early 2015 on a facility with room for up to 50 girls who will be placed at the Refuge through state and local agencies and from local law enforcement. She envisions several facilities someday to serve both boys and girls.

The refuge will include eight residential cottages, on-site schooling, and advanced therapeutic programs.

“By this time next year we’ll have children at the Refuge getting help,” says Crowder. “It’s filling the need for these children, it’s filling the need in our community, and it’s filling a need across the nation.”

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