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Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport joins fight against Human Trafficking with new awareness campaign

On Thursday, June 8, 2023, the Okaloosa County Commission on the Status of Women (OCCSW) and the OCSW Foundation came together at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport to shed light […]

On Thursday, June 8, 2023, the Okaloosa County Commission on the Status of Women (OCCSW) and the OCSW Foundation came together at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport to shed light on the issue of human trafficking and to introduce their latest prevention efforts. 

  • The OCCSW representatives—Mitzi Henley, Trisha Graham, Christie Pratt, and Kelley Fuller—were present at the morning presentation.

The focal point of the event was the presentation of 70 Human Trafficking “Awareness and Help” decals to Airport Director Tracy Stage and Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel. The decals are set to be placed on the back of bathroom stall doors throughout the airport, with the aim of raising awareness about this grave societal issue, especially concerning women and children. 

Mitzi Henley adding the first decal to the bathroom door stalls at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport

In November 2021, the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners supported an effort to raise awareness to end human trafficking in our area with a proclamation that supported educating the public on spotting the warning signs of human trafficking and reporting it to the authorities.

  • The Okaloosa County Commission on the Status of Women led a series of meetings with stakeholders from various Okaloosa County women’s organizations and subject matter experts, including the Executive Director of the Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking to discuss ways to fight human trafficking locally.
Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel (left) and Mitzi Henley (right) adding the first decals to the bathroom door stalls at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport

At that time, Florida ranked third in the nation in the number of calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Industries commonly targeted by human traffickers are located in Okaloosa County as well as along Interstate 10, which has been used as a corridor for human trafficking.

The new decals at the airport provide crucial information for those who encounter someone in need of assistance and serve as a reminder that human trafficking, involving forced labor, sexual slavery, or commercial exploitation, is something we all must continue to battle.

Tracy Stage, the airport director, expressed his gratitude towards Mitzi Henley, who initially brought the issue of human trafficking to Commissioner Ketchel’s attention. Stage emphasized the importance of addressing human trafficking in Okaloosa County, stating, “We are proud to support the OCCSW and the effort to combat human trafficking.” 

  • The decals, he explained, would be placed on every stall door in every restroom throughout the airport’s concourses. Stage commended Commissioner Ketchel for spearheading the initiative and collaborating with Mitzi Henley and the OCCSW in designing the stickers, underscoring the airport’s pride in supporting this crucial effort.

Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel highlighted Mitzi Henley’s leadership in tackling this critical policy issue during her tenure as the head of the Okaloosa County Commission on the Status of Women. Ketchel emphasized the significance of combating human trafficking, which predominantly affects women and children, while also acknowledging its impact on men. 

She mentioned that all involved parties had undergone training to recognize and respond to human trafficking situations, becoming certified in the state of Florida. 

The decision to use decals and place them on restroom doors across the airport was a joint effort between Henley, Ketchel, and Stage. Additionally, the airport broadcasts regular announcements, ensuring that visitors are informed about the appropriate numbers to call for assistance. 

  • “The hope is that we will be able to help at least one person, if not many people,” added Ketchel.

Mitzi Henley expressed her gratitude to everyone who supported the OCCSW’s efforts in combating human trafficking, highlighting the example set by the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport and hoping that the decals would extend throughout the entire county.

The OCCSW and the OCSW Foundation are encouraging local businesses and community members to purchase these decals to support the initiative. The decals are available through the OCSW, and interested individuals can visit FloridaAllianceEndHT.com to educate their families or email theocsw@gmail.com to acquire the decals. 

  • “The OCCSW would like to extend their appreciation to local businesses that have donated to facilitate the design and production of these decals, contributing to the fight against human trafficking in Okaloosa County,” added Henley.

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Community Comments

“Would like to know this as well.”
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“This is Awesome/ Thank You for Your Service Reuse an Recycle”
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“Carolyn, there is two of them this year, the one at the fairgrounds is still on the 27th”
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“I thought this was scheduled for April 27th at Fair grounds in FWB.”
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“Is there a limit on the amount?”
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“Couldn’t the tennis courts be used for Pickle Ball Courts?”
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“How come we haven't heard about any charges or anything about the person who hit this lady ?”
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“Stayed at the Calypso resort last week. Overran with immaturity. Teens were throwing beer bottles from the balcony and dog shit while kids were swimming in the pools below.”
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