After more than 80 community members attended a brief informational session on human trafficking last year, as part of the Grand County LEAD (Learn Educate Achieve Dare) program, their number one request was: We want more in-depth information on the issue, and we want a way to fight back.

This year, LEAD is hosting two informational sessions on Sunday, February to do just that—one targeted at high-school age girls in their LEAD program, and the other to the broader community.

The mission: to educate folks and help them recognize the risk factors and warning signs, and give them the tools to become involved, such as through county-wide community task forces.

Nearly two-thirds of the targeted victims are girls ages 8 through 14, and that’s the primary reason that LEAD has opted to tackle this issue by educating young leaders in this county. “We want young girls and young women to be knowledgeable, recognize red flags, and be able to educate and help their peers,” says Pastor Paula Steinbacher, a co-founder of LEAD.

But trafficking is much broader than just sex trafficking.

In a resort community, because labor is in short supply, with low wages and inadequate housing, it’s very easy for people to get trapped into a labor trafficking situation in the hospitality or construction industries. What does that look like? Employers withhold pay or documentation, and/or threaten harm to victims or their loved ones if the trafficked person doesn’t continue to work for them on their terms.

“Often, employees are brought here on a pretense of work, housing, and compensation, but because pay is inadequate to obtain housing, or their situation is totally unacceptable, like substandard housing, that makes the workers more open and vulnerable to being lured into a situation that promises a better situation,” says Leslie Wilson, LEAD steering committee member.

The two-part event features speaker Mary Landerholm, of the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking in Denver, as well as other community leaders. The focus will be on thought provoking community dialogue and finding practical solutions and ways to advocate for vulnerable residents.

These are some of the key factors that indicate a community is a ripe target for human traffickers:

-Proximity to a major city

-Access to major interstate crossroads

-Resort town

-drug and substance abuse issues

-Lack of affordable housing

-Rural/agricultural community

And Grand County ticks every box.


Cara McDonald is the Editorial Director at Evergreen Custom Media. Publishers of:
Winter Park Mountain Living Magazine, Fort Collins Magazine, Breckenridge Magazine, Town & Mountain Magazine (Frisco & Copper Mountain), Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa Wedding Magazine,, Denver Urban Gardens Underground News.  She can be contacted at: Evergreen Custom Media | 820 South Monaco Pkwy., #275 | Denver, CO 80224