Stories From Smaller Nonprofits ~ Bags of Hope Project


Screen Shot 2016-12-15 at 11.21.28 AMI am excited to bring back Diva Marketing's Holiday For Small Nonprofits Series.

Even in this generous season of giving the small NPOs too often get lost among big campaigns of nonprofits with larger budgets. In between your shopping and baking and gift wrapping I ask that you take a moment to read a story or two of how people are helping people... one by one. 

It's our hope that you might find a new NPO that touches your heart. Heart holiday  

The Bags of Hope Project is a unique nonprofit that maybe the 'smallest' in our series but none the less the work it does is important and impactful. Bags of Hope Project is a very narrowly focused nonprofit that works strictly on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) - supplying their agents who are working to rescue victims of sex trafficking, with items that they need to help victims feel more comfortable during the questioning process.

Our story teller is the founder of Bags of Hope Malenka Warner.

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Malenka's story begins as a dedicated volunteer with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. She is a certified presenter for the GBI’s Cyber Safety Initiative, part of the “Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force,” run by the GBI’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit. This important community initiative brings internet safety presentations to schools, neighborhood groups and other community organizations.

Through her work with these organizations Malenka saw a gap in the support system. Based in Atlanta, the Bags of Hope Project, collects and maintains an inventory of items for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Victims Assistance agents in Georgia, which are used to give immediate comfort to rescued sex trafficking victims.

Malenka's "day job" is Managing Director and Owner of Atlanta Daybook, flagship city for the Daybook Network. Daybook is utilized by nonprofit and for profit organizations to promote their organization news and events.

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Bags of Hope Project

The Need or Gap In The System - This isn't a process that many of us have knowledge of, so allow me to give you just a bit of background information. When victims of sex trafficking are rescued by the FBI, they must go through a very specific process of questioning to assist the FBI in building a successful case against the individuals who were responsible for enslaving them. Young children - boys and girls; young women and young boys; young women with babies - These victims are rescued many times with only the clothes on their backs. And after this questioning period, they enter into the state system of care and support.

The Bags of Hope Project goal is to help these victims be more comfortable during the necessary interview process; to give them comfort and reassurance that they are safe and worthy; and to help create a very positive first impression for them of the law enforcement personnel who are working tirelessly to rescue those who are being abused.

For many folks who know me through my company, Daybook Network and Atlanta Daybook, they are sometimes surprised at my interest in this area. It's actually not that unusual, given my background. You see, my father was the former head probation officer of the Fulton County Juvenile Court, which worked to provide juvenile offenders with treatment, rehabilitation, and supervision.

The juvenile court also was involved with situations involving neglect, where kids were placed in healthier and safer environments. I grew up with an understanding of how many kids in our state are in dangerous situations. So when I was nominated to participate in the FBI's 8-week Citizen Academy program that gives business, religious, civic, and community leaders an inside look at the work of the FBI, I jumped at the opportunity.

As a 2003 graduate of the FBI Citizens Academy program, I got to learn a great deal more about the role of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and about the work they are doing in our community. And I have stayed involved with the work of the Citizens Academy Alumni program, by helping the Bureau with community outreach initiatives.

That experience also introduced me to the folks at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s (GBI) Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit. When the head of the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force asked if I would be interested in becoming one of their community trainers, I again enthusiastically volunteered. Today, the GA ICAC Task Force gives presentations around the state to parents, community organizations, and of course schools. You can request a presentation with this online form.

Through my volunteer work with the FBI, and after meeting with the head of their Victim Assistance unit, I became aware of the need and opportunity to assist the FBI agents in creating the most positive first impression possible for these young victims. According to statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, trafficking victims sometimes return to their trafficker, sometimes out of fear, or because of their uncertainty about their security. It is critical that these victims have the most positive experience possible during this initial questioning period.  Screen Shot 2016-12-15 at 11.19.05 AM

The FBI agents are professional, patient and non-judgmental. Our goal is to provide them with items that will help them create the most positive bond of trust possible.

I formed Bags of Hope Project (a Georgia nonprofit 501c3 organization) when I realized the far-reaching possible affects of helping the FBI agents give these victims basic comfort items in these first critical hours after being rescued.

How You Can Help - Here are the items we are currently collecting: (our list changes per the needs of the Bureau, usually on a seasonal basis)

  • Food Cards (McDonalds, Chick-fil-A, Burger King - basically drive-thru restaurants)

[When a victim is recovered, many times they are hungry. The FBI investigators are not allowed to buy the victim food with their own money or the Bureau's money, but the investigator can drive them to a fast-food restaurant, and using the drive-thru line get them food using the gift cards we provide to the agents. These cards will stay with the agents, so the suggested denominations for each card are $25 and up.]

  • Diapers (Newborn to 5 years)
  • Brand new small stuffed animals
  • Cases of bottled water
  • Sweatshirts/Sweatpants (Please email [email protected] for specific sizes currently needed. We have very limited storage facilities available so we collect clothing as needed by the Bureau.)

If you would like to help, please feel free to send me an email - [email protected]. I'm happy to meet you and collect any items you would like to donate.


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