The Georgia Association of Convenience Stores (GACS) has been chosen as a 2019 Summit Award recipient for its work in the Convenience Stores Against Trafficking program. The award is the highest recognition under the “Power of A” campaign, presented by the American Society of Association Executives. Among 114 entries, GACS received the top award in the Enriching Lives category.
The Power of A campaign brings attention to the association community’s contributions to society at the local, national and global levels.
“Harnessing the power of members to create change is at the heart of what associations do. This year’s winners are inspiring examples of the positive impact associations have throughout our communities,” said Sharon Swan, CEO of the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics and this year’s chair of the Power of A judging committee.
Convenience Stores Against Trafficking shows how an association can muster its resources and capitalize on its unique position in the community it serves.
In 2018, GACS partnered with In Our Backyard (IOB), a nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating human trafficking. With convenience stores serving approximately half the population daily, they are often the eyes and ears of their communities. The IOB’s Convenience Stores Against Trafficking is a no-cost program focused on equipping store employees with training and materials to safely recognize the signs and report human trafficking.
In the weeks leading up to the 2019 Super Bowl, held in Atlanta, GACS and IOB stepped up efforts, in collaboration with local law enforcement, the FBI and GBI, and other community groups. GACS launched the program with a press conference held at Georgia’s state capitol sponsored by State Representative Chuck Efstration, GBI Director Venon Keenan, IOB Executive Director Nita Belles, International Human Trafficking Institute Director Deborah Richardson, Clipper Petroleum Foundation Director Haley Bower and GACS President Angela Holland. In November, at the Southern Convenience Store & Petroleum Show in Macon, Georgia, GACS offered free training to all retailer attendees. Plus, IOB followed up with retailers on the show floor, answering questions and signing up participants. Activities also included distribution of missing children’s booklets and visits to hundreds of metro area convenience stores to equip them to recognize and report human trafficking. Within three hours of the launch of this activity, on Jan. 26, store managers and clerks had given two credible leads to law enforcement that led to arrest and rescue.
As of May 23, 2019, 29 of the 34 children in the missing children’s book have been recovered. Seven adult victims have also received help. Hundreds of store locations have undergone training and placed freedom stickers in restroom stalls.
Matt Clements of Savannah-based enmarket, the first chain to partner with CSAT in the state of Georgia, said, “Our participation in this program is a great fit—enmarket is deeply involved in giving back to the community and by posting this information in our restrooms and training our staff, we have joined a nationwide movement that is saving lives of the most vulnerable in our communities.”