Kristin Keen’s dream came true at 515 E. Ninth St.
Rethreaded, the nonprofit she founded 10 years ago to provide jobs for human-trafficking survivors, had long outgrown its 2,800-square-foot building on Barnett Street, between Kings Road and West Beaver Street west of downtown Jacksonville.
Only with more space could the organization help more survivors.
This year a group of donors led by philanthropist Delores Barr Weaver helped Rethreaded buy and renovate some new digs: The $2 million dream space is a 36,000-square-foot former auction house and train depot on 2 acres near Springfield. Saturday’s grand opening celebration will be open to the public.
“We are so excited for the public to finally see our new space. It’s bigger, better, and bolder than we could have ever imagined,” Keen said. “This place will truly help us in our mission to provide survivors of human trafficking with the help and resources they need to put their lives back together.”
Stephanie Patton is the nonprofit’s assistant manager of business development. She is also a graduate of its trafficking-survivor development program that not only provides work but access to counseling and community resources.
“To me this building represents the future — the future for women who will walk through these doors with a new hope, a new opportunity, and a new community giving them the space to build a new life,” Patton said.
Florida is No. 3 in the country for trafficking cases, which include forced labor and sex trafficking, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, citing 2019 statistics. In 2020 local police arrested 35 victims, including eight juveniles, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
Keen lived and worked for five years in India where she and a friend formed a business that helped women in the sex trade by giving them jobs creating handmade blankets and other products.
After returning to Jacksonville, she founded Rethreaded, which produces upcycled clothing, leather products, jewelry and other items. The nonprofit has hired 74 survivors, giving them employment opportunities in production, inventory, sales, marketing and finance and administration. It also operates as a distribution company that sells products from other businesses that employ trafficking survivors.
Without a stable job, 85 percent of survivors of human trafficking will likely be trafficked again, according to Rethreaded.The nonprofit plans to use 20,000 square feet of the new complex — named the Delores Barr Weaver Campus of Hope — for its operations. That space will enable the hiring of four times more survivors than the current 14 and additional counselors to help them recover. Eventually a sewing school and logistics training will be added.
Also, Rethreaded will have space for fundraising events, Keen said.
The rest of the property will be rented out, providing a new revenue source.
But all that comes later. All that comes after Rethreaded has had time to “hire up,” to build staff capacity to take on the planned projects, she said.
“We only moved in two weeks ago,” she said.
For now, Keen and her 27-person staff, 14 of whom are trafficking survivors, are settling in and adjusting to their massive new workplace, she said.
“My favorite thing so far is to watch the effect of the building on the staff,” she said. “We were so cramped. I did not realize the effect on everyone. Now we have breathing room.”
With the new space and resulting expansion, Keen said she hopes to have hired a total of 500 survivors by 2031. In January when she announced the planned purchase of the Ninth Street property, she called it “the biggest moment in Rethreaded’s history.”
Weaver, who arrived in Jacksonville in 1993 when she and her husband Wayne became the Jaguars’ first owners, is a longtime Rethreaded supporter. She kicked off fundraising to buy the new site with a $600,000 matching grant.
“Since I first learned of Rethreaded, I have marveled at the clarity of its mission and the passion and determination of its leader, Kristin Keen,” she said. “Most of all, I wanted to support the powerful opportunity Rethreaded offers to women who are survivors of human trafficking to redefine themselves and their future. This campus will allow Rethreaded to give that opportunity to many more women who just need a chance to reclaim their lives.”
Other donors include the Chartrand family, Martin and Misty Eltrich, VyStar Credit Union, Adecco Foundation and Higher Pixels, a Jacksonville web application company. Rethreaded also received a $250,000 state appropriation in 2019 that was applied to the purchase price.
Also this year, Rethreaded purchased Amelia Toffee Co., an Amelia Island business that focused on handmade toffee. Rethreaded was already selling specialized Amelia Toffee products in its retail and online stores.
The purchase not only increased the nonprofit’s product line but created as many as five new jobs for human-trafficking survivors and added food preparation and candy making to the menu of training options.
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The grand opening will be 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the new 515 E. Ninth St. campus, which borders Springfield and the Eastside. The total amount of donations and purchases made at the event will be doubled up to $50,000 by an anonymous donor’s match. Food will be catered by Prati Italia, drinks by Engine 15 Brewing Co. and Tabula Rasa Brewing.
To support Rethreaded, donate at classy.org/give/370651/#!/donation/checkout, purchase its products at shop.rethreaded.com, sponsor a brick in the new complex’s Serenity Garden at bit.ly/3ng02pb or sponsor a part of the building at classy.org/event/naming-opportunities/e372841.
Learn More Here: rethreaded.com