Fighting for the Freedom of All: Lynne Starling Dowell

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been right in the middle of Dressember and suddenly found yourself running low on ideas. How do you stay creative, and how do you engage the people around you, all while trying to get your message out? If your hand shot up as quickly as mine did I’d like to introduce you to Lynne Starling Dowell.

Lynne comes from The Woodlands, Texas, but now resides in Houston, where she works for a company called Boosterthon. They strive to strengthen schools by helping them raise much-needed funds, and they share Lynne’s passion to change the world. If you were to look at her 2017 Dressember campaign page you would notice two things: she has a fierce heart for this cause, and she is defiant in the face of injustice, standing firm in the hope that there will one day be freedom for all.

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How One Couple Used Their 25th Anniversary to Make a Difference

Meet Vicki and Rick Rekedal. They recently celebrated 25 years of marriage, and used their anniversary party as a way to educate their family and friends about human trafficking. Because of this they were able to raise nearly $13,000 in a single night! I had a chance to ask them a few questions, and honestly, their story is too good not to share with you. I asked them to throw in some marriage advice too *get those tissues ready*.

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Not Your Typical Supermarket

In March 2018, the anti-trafficking world was hit with important news pertaining to a groundbreaking effort to contribute to the fight to end modern day slavery. This effort just so happened to be the opening of a supermarket, albeit not your typical destination for grocery shopping. In fact, the 7,000-square food North-East Baltimore supermarket called DMG Foods was opened by the Salvation Army, with a double-faceted charitable mission.

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The Shuie Family - Running for a Cause

Running for a cause is not something the Shuie’s were planning on doing, it just kind of happened. I was able to connect with Glenna Shuie, wife to Peter Shuie and mother to Taylor (13) and Christian (11). Glenna is planning on running a half marathon and was looking to run in a 5K to help reach her goal and also to find motivation to train. After searching online, she found out about Dressember and the 5K we are hosting this month! In Glenna’s own words, “After doing a little research, I found that the Dressember story and mission very much appealed to me. Sadly, I am well aware of human trafficking, especially here in California.

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Worth Running For

To my right, I see miles of farm fields with wind turbines sprinkled along the horizon. Sometimes the fields are covered with blankets of white, but as we get closer to Texas from South Dakota the snow slowly dwindles away and the temperature rises. My mom and I are on Interstate 35, the same interstate that has been used to transport an unknown number of people from Texas, my home state, into the rest of the United States to be sold illegally into sexual servitude, domestic servitude, or forced labor. It’s been almost 3 weeks since I ran the Bryan-College Station half marathon in a polyester snowman dress, and now I’m sitting in the car in a different dress, The Jessica, handmade by a survivor of sex trafficking in Nepal. 

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#youcandoanythinginadress Bucket List

Another year of Dressember has come and gone, and as a movement, we have reached new heights. This year we saw more dollars raised, more dresses and bow ties flaunted, and SO much creativity expressed.

For me, this year was about digging deeper. I led a team for the first time and created a Dressember bucket list to tackle! I brainstormed and reached out on social media for things I should try to do in a dress this December.

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Artistry and Advocacy: Using Photography to Raise Awareness

If you scroll through the #Dressember hashtags, some stunning and empowering snapshots of our advocates quickly come up. Among the gems of advocates wearing dresses in blizzards, while fixing cars, sledding, wood cutting, and beyond, portraits from Gabriel Boucher’s photography featuring his wife quickly draw attention. Featuring a somber photo in a graveyard, a fierce expression behind bars, and beyond, their photo campaign not only created awareness but told a story.

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Chutney for Change: Rebecca Williamson's Story

As we near the end of the Dressember season, we can't help but feel inspired by the creativity of our advocates. One example of this creativity is the founder of Holmsted Fines Chutney's, Rebecca Williamson. Rebecca has used her passion for making fine chutney to raise funds and awareness for Dressember's grant partner, International Justice Mission. We had the chance to chat with Rebecca about Holmsted Fines and her inspiration for using her talents to make a difference in the fight against human trafficking.

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We have raised $2 million dollars!

When we created the $2 million dollar goal back in the Fall, we knew that it would take an army of compassionate individuals to make this dream a reality. $2 million dollars was significantly more than we have ever raised before. It didn't take long for the fear to creep in -- this was a lot of money to ask for, and a lofty goal for us. But we also knew that if we were serious about bringing an end to human trafficking in our lifetime, we needed to get out of our comfort zone and dream bigger.

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Intern & Advocate, Beth Woods

It started just outside of Dakar, Senegal this past summer, in a room with only a fan and small window for air conditioning and wifi that worked really well for about 10 minutes out of every day. During one of those daily “10 minutes,” I got an email from Dressember that invited me to apply for either an editorial internship or a community engagement one. In Senegal, I had these amazing opportunities to study development, French, Wolof, and teach English, yet living in the midst of that kind of poverty I found myself desperate for the very the thing Dressember strives to provide: hope.

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Meet Kelsey Albers: New Advocate with Big Aspirations

Dressember has been running for officially three years now, but 2017 marked the first for 33-year-old mom, weight-lifter, youth-leader, and farmer, Kelsey Albers, of Rochelle, Illinois.

Albers decided to join Dressember because of the shock she felt from human trafficking statistics she learned from other advocates, who she previously mentored, last year on social media. Albers said the statistics were unknown to her before, and the magnitude of the problem surprised her.

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Three Generations For Dressember

Belgium is home to waffles, chocolate, and this beautiful family that is three generations deep into Dressember! This is Christel's second year wearing a dress every day of December and she was eager to participate this time around with both her mother, Suzanne, and six-year-old daughter, Noor. These three lovely females were generous enough to virtually sit down with us and chat about all things Dressember: the motivations, the challenges and the many reasons #itsbiggerthanadress. 

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Meet Heidi Warner

Each one of us has a unique story and experience to share with the world. This outlook on life is the driving motivation that brought Heidi Warner, 4-year Dressember advocate, to travel across the rural communities of Peru to the mountain peaks of Colorado. Using her passion for helping others, Heidi has worked for organizations such as Disney World and the Peace Corps, and now resides in Denver, Colorado where she uses her knowledge in healthcare marketing to be part of the larger narrative of impacting others’ lives.

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United in Shanghai

Last week, an anonymous $6000 donation landed on Ryan Muir's campaign page. We reached out to Ryan to see what his secret was because let's face it, $6000 donations are the stuff of dreams. We were inspired to hear Ryan's story about how he & his team at Concordia International School Shanghai are engaging their community with Dressember. Ryan was kind enough to share his story and fundraising ideas with us below.

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Ten Thoughts of a Dressember Advocate

Whether this is your first year advocating with us or you are a seasoned professional, there are some moments that come with Dressember that are uniquely Dressember. In what other situation are you able to join thousands across the globe in an advocacy movement through fashion? From the awkward to the amazing, you’re not alone in this journey. Here are the ten thoughts common in the Dressember advocate experience.

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Setting Goals and Meeting Them: RuthAnn Deveney

Dressember advocates often find creative ways to advocate. One advocate, RuthAnn Deveney, has spent the past three years going beyond the challenge of wearing dresses to wearing the same dress for the whole duration of December and setting monetary goals enough to fund 10 rescue operations.

RuthAnn first joined Dressember in 2014 because of her familiarity with International Justice Mission, one of Dressember's partners.

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Dear Freedom Fighter

Dear Freedom Fighter,

You may wonder if you have any impact. You may wonder if your posting of a photo makes any difference. Let me tell you, it does.

As a teenager, I was sexually trafficked by a 40-year-old man that I met at my part-time job. He started telling me things that I wanted to hear like how beautiful and amazing that I was. At that time, I could never speak for myself because I suffered from dark issues rooted in abandonment, sexual abuse, and being beaten by various people prior to meeting my trafficker. After a few months of living with him he asked me to be a part of his “art project” and do unthinkable things. I agreed because I had developed the mindset that power equaled control simply from what I had seen and heard in culture.

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