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Cedar Rapids woman recognized for work in human trafficking prevention
A Cedar Rapids woman who has spent more than eight years volunteering her time to fight human trafficking was honored Thursday with an Outstanding Anti-Trafficking Service Award from the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking.
Tish Young was one of six recipients of the award, which is presented annually at the public signing of a governor’s proclamation designating January as Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
The award is meant to honor those who go out of their way to raise awareness about and fight human trafficking in Iowa, according to George Belitsos, chair of the board of directors of the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery.
“We usually cap it at five awardees, but this year there are so many very deserving people, we decided to make it six,” Belitsos said. “(The award) is a way of letting the general public know that there are people that are fighting trafficking and really helping to bring the truth out in the open about what’s going on because of what they’re doing day to day, and they get very little recognition.”
Young is the chief operating officer of Chains Interrupted, a Cedar Rapids-based nonprofit that strives to end human trafficking. She works part-time in the position, and also has a full-time job with the City of Cedar Rapids as the Veteran’s Memorial Building program coordinator.
Before becoming the COO at Chains Interrupted, which is her first paid position with the organization, Young served as a volunteer, a board member, and president of the board for the nonprofit. Even now, Young continues to donate her time far above and beyond what is required for her job as COO, according to Teresa Davidson, co-founder of Chains Interrupted, who nominated Young for the anti-trafficking award.
“She was hands down the person to think about this year for that (award). It’s really a long time in coming. It’s overdue, in my opinion. It’s high time we recognize her for all the stuff she’s done,” Davidson said.
“I’ve just seen her sacrifice so much for this. She cares about the people that are being victimized. She cares about the kids that could be victimized and just wants to do whatever she can to prevent this and help those that are in it to get out and find restoration and freedom.”
Young started volunteering with Chains Interrupted after hearing Davidson speak about the prevalence of human trafficking in 2014.
“My faith in God is just center to who I am, and I spent probably a year praying that the Lord would give me something, because I knew I needed something outside of my church,” Young said. “I had no idea human trafficking was even happening. That didn’t even land as something that I thought was feasible in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. But from that moment on, my heart was broken, and this has become my mission.”
Young said she feels uncomfortable accepting the award, because she doesn’t do what she does with Chains Interrupted for recognition, but she’s hoping the award will bring more awareness to the nonprofit and its work.
“I guess I’m impassioned by the fact that I want people to feel loved but not vulnerable, if that makes sense,” Young said. “I don’t believe I’ve done anything that anyone with my heart wouldn’t do. If they knew what I know, I don’t know how you couldn’t.”
The other five recipients of the Outstanding Anti-Trafficking Service Award this year are:
- Alka Khanolkar of Keokuk, the 2021-22 Rotary District 6000 Governor, who engaged Iowa rotary clubs in the fight against human trafficking.
- Leland Schipper of Des Moines, a teacher and coach who organized a GoFundMe page for his former student, Pieper Lewis, a sex trafficking survivor who was sentenced to probation for killing her alleged rapist.
- IMT Insurance in Des Moines, which was one of the first businesses to join the Iowa Businesses Against Trafficking, organized by the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office, and has donated money and vehicles to nonprofits working against trafficking.
- Melody Stone of Mason City, a trauma-trained physical therapist who works with trafficking survivors and founded the North Iowa Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
- Sister Shirly Fineran of Sioux City, who founded Lila Mae’s House, a residential service dedicated to trafficking survivors.
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