Keys Coalition grows faith-based committee

Keys Coalition grows faith-based committee

Gilbert takes over as chair

On Thursday, Nov. 17 the “faith network” of Keys Coalition, Inc., the recently formed coalition to fight modern slavery and particularly child sex trafficking, met at Fifth Street Baptist Church to discuss how area synagogues and churches can assist the coalition in its missions of raising awareness of the problem of domestic sex trafficking and preventing any child in Monroe County from being ensnared in the horrors of child prostitution.

The co-chairs of the “faith network” are Rev. Ruben Velasco of Key West United Methodist Church and Rabbi Shimon Dudai of Congregation B’nai Zion.

Joining in prayer for trafficking victims worldwide are Key West clergy who attended the meeting with coalition members, including: Sara Cook, assistant secretary of the Coalition; Phillip Jones; Rev. David Martin, Chaplain of the United States Navy; Suzette Gibson, secretary of the Coalition; Rev. Robert Heidle of Grace Lutheran Church; Tim Gratz, "strategist" of the Coalition; Rev. Beverly Mingo-Greene of Newman United Methodist Church; Phyllis Allen, lay representative of Trinity Wesleyan Methodist Church; Rev. Ruben Velasco of Key West United Methodist Church: Rev. Dr. Jonathan Carey, pastor of Glad Tidings Community Church and Co-Chair of the Coalition; Rev. Daryl Robinson of Big Coppitt First Baptist Church and the President of the Key West Interfaith Ministerial Alliance; Pastor Ernest DeLoach, pastor emeritus of Glad Tidings Community Church; Rev. Ozzie Vater of Fifth Street Baptist Church and Rabbi Dudai of Congregation B'Nai Zion. Not pictured are: Adam Walker of Calvary Chapel, Rev Tim Jemly of Impact Community Church and Rev. Larry Hooper of St. Pauls Episcopal Church. Photo courtesy Gyvel Berkley

At their meeting the clergy, decided to call upon all Keys residents of faith (whether or not they regularly attend a synagogue or church) to spend two minutes in prayer at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 11 for trafficking victims and survivors all over the world.

The date was selected for the joint prayer because Congress has designated Jan. 11 of every year as Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

“It is estimated that there are 32 million slaves around the world,” Rev Velasco said “It is a symbolic gesture that people of varying faiths, Jews and Christians united, will join in prayer at noon on Trafficking Awareness Day. Trafficking is primarily fueled by greed. The damages inflicted on modern day slaves by this avarice cannot be over estimated. We pray that God will intervene and free the chains of the oppressed around the world, and protect those working to free them.”

In other news, Connie Gilbert has been elected chair of the Keys-wide organization whose mission is to raise public awareness that the commercial sexual exploitation of minors is a problem even in the United States and it has been called by the FBI one of the nation’s fastest growing crimes. Gilbert is a long time community activist who helped organize the Key West Symphony and the Tropic Cinema. She recently served as the president of the Literacy Volunteers and is the local chair of the National Organization for Women.

The coalition is holding a meeting at 4 pm on Monday, Dec. 5 at Unity of the Keys (at the intersection of Virginia and Watson Street in Key West). The public is invited to attend and participate.

During the meeting, there will be a preview of “Playground” a documentary about the child sex trade in the United States produced by George Clooney, which will be shown in full at the Coalition’s Jan. 14 rally (“OUR KIDS ARE NOT FOR SALE”) at the Key West High School.

The coalition will hear a presentation by director Christine Poist, President of the Monroe County Bar Association, on the Bar’s work analyzing whether improvements are needed in the Florida anti-trafficking laws.

There will also be a special appearance by Adriane Reesy of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. Ms. Reesey heads the Broward County Human Trafficking Coalition, one of the oldest anti-trafficking coalitions in the state. She’ll talk about what the coalition and concerned citizens can do to fight the horrors of the domestic sex trade of children.

For more information about Keys Coalition’s mission, please visit or call (305) 600-8000.


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