Pam Gumns is one of those people in a community that brings the community together. She grew up in Valparaiso, left for college, and moved back to get married and raise a family.
She went to college at Northwestern University and received her Bachelors in Arts and Sociology.
Gumns is a normal Midwestern woman. She enjoys the simple things in life such as reading, going to the beach, and perusing the local farmer’s markets and has a part-time job preparing income taxes, but she is far more than your average Midwesterner. Gumns has been working for Free The Girls since 2012.
She had been a volunteer for Free The Girls at Duneland Community Church in Chesterton when Pastor Greg Arthur, the now President of the Board of Free The Girls, asked her if she would help by starting collecting bras at the church instead of in Denver, Colorado.
“I said sure because at the time collections were pretty small. They [Duneland Community Church] were collecting 20,000 bras in a year. I thought we can put them somewhere until we have time. This could be something I can do to engage the church community in and help people,” said Gumns. “It was after I said yes that CNN ran their three-part documentary on Free The Girls and it was after that that things exploded, and now this part-time volunteer gig I just said yes to just took off.”
Free The Girls is a charity that helps women who have been enslaved in human trafficking escape that life through giving them entrepreneurial skills. How it works is, people donate bras, then volunteers sort and pack them into boxes to be shipped overseas. The bras are shipped to the three countries that Free The Girls has bases of operations in, Mozambique, Uganda, and El Salvador.
“In each one of those countries, women that have been rescued from human trafficking can start a small business, entrepreneur, and sell these bras to make an income. They do that while they get job skills training, and psychosocial support counseling for the trauma they have been through.”
Gumns was then thrown into the fray to figure out how to handle the exponential growth of the charity, and the overwhelming amount of donations coming into Duneland Community Church. She said, “I had to scrounge practically everything. I had to get people to donate boxes. I had to try and get tape donated, and I went online to find someone to volunteer to drive their box truck to pick up the bras. It was all a very grass roots kind of thing.”
Free The Girls has since then received a grant that allows them to work on their infrastructure so that they can pay people a part-time salary.
Gumns said, “You know, you can only depend on volunteers to do so much and for so long. So, they were able through this grant to pay some good people to do this work.”
Gumns has always loved helping people in need. She has been everything from running a group home for the mentally disabled and mentally ill adults to being a Cub Scout Leader.
“I’ve always enjoyed jobs in helping people, particularly people who need a hand.”
She was made for this role in Free The Girls, she claims.
“What I love about it is that its engaging in the fight against human trafficking, and it’s helping people in our community be able to be involved in that fight.”
“I love it because it is a challenge. In the past year alone we have received 180,000 bras, and it’s a challenge to make all of this happen,” she added. “I love helping the woman, working with all of the volunteers, and I get to go to other churches in the program to give speeches.”
For more information on Free The Girls, click here.