BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Julie Palmer followed a calling from her faith and her heart and today, serves victims of human trafficking. She’s the executive director of PATH Enrichment Center.
“I heard somebody speak about human trafficking, and that’s when it really, I sobbed through the entire thing,” she said. “Really broke my spirit, and I just remember really feeling like God was saying, ‘This is what I want you to do.'”
PATH, or People Against Trafficking Humans, was looking for someone to take the lead and grow its mission. Last year, she said PATH served nearly 300 people that are at risk or have been affected by human trafficking.
“I have a background on mental health counseling, also music therapy. I did that for the first 16 years of my career, so dealt with trauma issues, mental health, addictions, and then took a little period off to care for my kids, and in that time, I just really felt like God was playing my heart to do something different.”
She’s helped establish it as a non-profit and is the founder of its enrichment center.
“What we do here is offer all the other aspects of healing. We have art enrichment, music therapy, fitness classes. We have meals free for clients as they come in, including hygiene items. A variety of different group support and fitness classes that we offer.”
“They engage in our hula-hooping class, and they’re having fun and smiling and enjoying their time when they came in here depressed, anxious, and afraid.”
Outside of PATH, Julie is also making sure people know the signs.
“It’s not a Third World problem, it’s not just a foreign-born problem, it’s not just a poverty problem. We have youth here who come from our suburbs. Some come from regular homes.”
Julie credits her husband, who nominated her for this honor, with rooting for her success. Together, they have four kids.
“We have quite a house full, too. My oldest and youngest are adopted, which is just a neat part of how our family lives out caring for people. You know, we just felt our hearts beat for raising kids that might have otherwise been in difficult situations.”
Julie says the future of PATH includes a safehouse initiative.
“One of the things to help somebody heal and restore is they need to feel safe at night, and so really having a home that would be like how we live, you know, not a shelter, but a home where they can own it and they can be part of it, and they would feel safe. And then we’d help them set goals for their next steps in life. I think we also have a long-term goal of being able to support men and boys as well.”
Perseverance is among the qualities that make her a Remarkable Women finalist for 2020.
“No matter how hard it can get, no matter how many times you have a setback, I just persevere and keep moving forward cause I really believe that’s what I’m supposed to do and that I have a purpose and a calling here to really care for people who are being exploited and assaulted.”