Community Connections

Western Massachusetts Businesses Join Forces to Combat Human Trafficking

In honor of Human Trafficking Awareness Month local business leaders and industry groups today announced the formation of Western Massachusetts Businesses against Human Trafficking, a coalition dedicated to addressing the nationwide scourge of human trafficking. Members formalized the coalition by endorsing a pledge to increase awareness of and protect against human trafficking in their places of business, and to collaborate broadly across the community and region to address the issue. 
The group was convened by MGM Springfield in early 2017 in recognition of the fact that the business community needed a formal effort to support the work already being conducted by law enforcement, community organizations and faith-based groups throughout the region.
MGM Springfield, together with other local business leaders in the hospitality and transportation industry, recognized they were uniquely situated to prevent, recognize, and report cases of suspected human trafficking, based upon the millions of individuals that come through their respective doors each year. The initial makeup of the coalition reflects the commitment of those industries in Western Massachusetts to take a leadership role in this effort.
MGM Springfield President and COO Michael Mathis said, “MGM Resorts is committed to human rights and anti-human trafficking efforts across our entire company. We are eager to collaborate with law enforcement and other like-minded businesses and organizations to address such an important issue.”
Coalition members include MGM Springfield, Peter Pan Bus Lines, the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, the Sheraton Springfield, the East of the River Five Towns Chamber, the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Springfield Redevelopment Authority (owner of Union Station), the Springfield/Worcester Hilton Garden Inns, the Hampton Inn & Suites Springfield/Downtown, Square One, and the Red Roof Inn, West Springfield.
Paul Picknelly, President & CEO of Monarch Enterprises (owner of the Springfield Sheraton and Springfield/Worcester Hilton Garden Inn) said, “There can be no tolerance for human trafficking in Western Massachusetts.  We applaud MGM Springfield for convening this group and we look forward to collaborating with our fellow business owners to help combat this epidemic.” 
“Peter Pan Bus Lines has been and will continue to do whatever they can to prevent and stop the horrible crime of human trafficking,” said Christopher M. Crean, Vice President of Safety and Security for Peter Pan Bus Lines. “We currently work with a national organization called Truckers Against Human Trafficking, and are proud to join forces with western Massachusetts businesses and organizations in helping to combat this tragic epidemic.”
Nancy Creed, President of the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce said, “The Springfield Regional Chamber understands the critical importance of the prevention of human trafficking in the local business community, and we are committed to communicating and collaborating with our members to increase awareness and to protect against this violation of basic human rights.”
Jen Falcone, who holds a Masters of Social Work degree and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is coordinating the group’s efforts. In that role, she will guide the member organization’s efforts and align them with law enforcement, service providers, community/faith groups, and government entities addressing the issue of human trafficking in the region.
“From day one, this group has been ready and willing to tackle a very serious but uncomfortable topic,” said Falcone. “They are setting an example that business leaders throughout the Commonwealth would do well to follow.”
The coalition meets on a regular basis to share best practices, hear from guest speakers, work with law enforcement, and discuss the latest trends in the community.
Nancy L. Connor, Executive Director of the ERC5-East of the River Five Towns Chamber of Commerce said, “Our members recognize the business community has a critical role to play in the fight against human trafficking. Whether it is promoting trainings, sharing information, or offering the Western MA Businesses against Human Trafficking Pledge to our members. We recognize we are in this together and stand arm and arm with our law enforcement and community based partners.”
The pledge signed by coalition members includes a commitment to increase awareness among staff members and to protect against human trafficking in their places of business.  Additionally, the Pledge asks members to collaborate and advocate across the local community.
“Human trafficking is a growing epidemic that knows no boundaries,” says Joan Kagan, President & CEO of Square One. “Coming together as a community to combat this issue and the social, emotional consequences our children and families are facing as a result, is a critical step in the right direction.”
The coalition is planning an educational/awareness-raising event for late winter/early spring that will be open to the entire business community.  The group continues to welcome new members and Pledge endorsers.

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