Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Convergence Resource Center works to rescue victims of human trafficking

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- During the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, a dedicated group of advocates from the Convergence Resource Center in Milwaukee worked to rescue victims of human trafficking in Tampa. These everyday heroes coordinated with a rescue group on the ground, more than 1,200 miles away, getting as many people to safety as they could.

The Super Bowl is known for its week of parties, activities and celebrations, but, like most big events, it can also attract a darker side.

“Twenty-five thousand! I mean, that's just a huge number to me. It's unbelievable,” said Carla McKiver, co-founder and CFO of Convergence Resource Center.

She’s talking about the number of sex ads advocates found online.

“They basically have, it seems, like marketing promoters, that take the pictures and put the ads out,” she said.

Using those ads, volunteers compiled a contact list. In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, volunteers at a call center in Milwaukee called number after number, looking for women who needed help.

“We also ask them, if this is an opportune time, if they might want to be rescued,” McKiver explained. “Or if they don't feel safe.”

We talked with Convergence Executive Director Debbie Lassiter before she left for Florida.

“A lot of people don't realize this kind of help is here,” she said at the time.

Lassiter made the trip to Tampa with a ground team, ready to rescue trafficking victims.

“We got less sleep than we ever have,” Lassiter said. “It was really, really busy this time. And we had a safe house. It was full.”

The group also did outreach, handing out roses with a number on them that women can call to get help. The game may be over, but the work isn’t done.

“The rescues will continue now for months,” Lassiter said. “People will still keep reaching out, and still being rescued.”

It’s a problem the NFL is fighting, too. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers appeared alongside other NFL players and their wives in a public service announcement called the “It’s a Penalty Campaign.”

“These crimes will not be tolerated,” Rodgers said in the video. “It's a penalty.”

In Milwaukee, McKiver said the phone lines are always open. They also worked with other call centers during the effort.

“We have one here. We have one in Illinois, and they also have another call center in Tampa,” she explained. “This is a network! This is a collaborative effort."

Convergence Resource Center has been a part of this effort with another organization called Rahab's Daughters for the last three years.

McKiver said they’ve helped rescue and provide resources for more than 200 people.

You can find more information at https://www.convergenceresource.org/.

If you’d like to nominate someone for Natalie’s Everyday Heroes, send Natalie a message at NShepherd@cbs58.com.

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