Annual Winter Gala raises funds to fight human trafficking

Published 7:06 pm Monday, November 12, 2018

It’s a topic that too often remains hidden in the shadows of society. Every day, around the world and in eastern North Carolina, women, men and children fall prey to human trafficking and the sex trade.

At the Washington Assembly of God on Friday, more than 250 people gathered for the church’s annual Winter Gala, enjoying an evening of fellowship, fancy dress and fine dining. Now in its seventh year, this event took on a new purpose for 2018 —shining a light on the evils of sexual slavery and taking action to do something about it.

Between sponsorships, donations and ticket sales, the event was able to raise enough money to do just that. Doubling its initial goal of $6,000, the gala raised a total of $13,500 for Project Rescue, a Christian nonprofit focused on rescuing victims of sexual slavery and ministering the love of Christ.

At approximately $1,200 per child, this amount is enough to rescue 10 children from the sex trade.

For the church, this represents an evolution of its annual Ladies Holiday Gala. While ladies still enjoy an evening of fine food and socializing, with the men of the congregation taking on the role of wait staff, this was the first year the event had been specifically dedicated to a mission.

“We were not interested in doing a gala with all this work if it was just for a good time,” Organizer Jinjer Haskett said. “As a staff, we all sat down and started researching different projects and organizations. At that point, we didn’t know which mission we were going to do, but we were going to have a missions gala of some sort, where every extra dime made off of it goes to that organization.”

Haskett says that WAG Children’s Pastor Tommi Bridgeman, through her work with Boys and Girls Missions Challenge, had become familiar with Project Rescue. After meeting with the founders of Project Rescue, the gala had its mission. Working with local sponsors and contributors, the gala was able to raise a substantial amount of money for the event, maximizing the program’s impact for Project Rescue.

“My goal is that somebody would read this article and decide they want to match that,” Haskett said. “We could rescue 20 children with $27,000.”

Since its inception 20 years ago, Project Rescue has spread to 14 cities in seven Asian and European countries. Significantly, the organization and others like it are also starting to do more work inside the United States as well. While more information on Project Rescue can be found at, information about human trafficking in eastern North Carolina is also available at

“It’s a reminder to hold our children so much closer,” Haskett said. “If we’re not as a church pursuing to help someone else, what is our purpose?”

Moving forward, Haskett says that Washington Assembly of God will continue to act as a conduit for local donors wishing to connect with Project Rescue. Tax-deductible donations may be made directly to Washington Assembly of God with a note that the contribution is to go toward Project Rescue.