My evening at Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue Farm Tenino, WA

posted on: July 13, 2018

Oftentimes, I have been intrigued by those beautiful people who dedicate their entire lives to a cause or business. One example would be a family Mom & Pop shop or a community’s meat market with a famous butcher who is the grandson of the creator and owner…a business that has been passed down from generation to generation. It amazes me that people can stay in one place and dedicate their entire lives to doing just one thing…for me, that would scare me to death to have to do that but it also impresses me that others are so good at so many things that the world may never know about. In this post, I want to share one of those special people I believe the whole world should know hear about and know. She may never be a household name but to alpacas, she is a hero. 

Many know, I am away on holiday visiting family in Washington. I am currently writing book two in the Pushing Back the Darkness series bringing awareness to abuse and sexual trafficking in America. I was driving to visit Mount Rainier one day last week, when I drove past a ‘llama’ farm. On a whim, I looked them up online and found Cross Creek Alpaca Farm. Without thinking to hard on the matter, I quickly sent her a message and asked if I could come visit her and check out the farm. She replied and invited me  out. Tonight I spent over an hour there. One of our first conversations was one of her explaining to me she had to find a job to support the rescue Alpacas. She relies on donations to feed them and nurture them back to health.  Alpacas are not native to the United State of America. Since 1984, alpacas have been imported from Peru, Bolivia and Chile into the United States but when they arrive here they can be mistreated, misused or neglected…sounds familiar, huh???  What a parallel…maybe that is why my heartstrings were tugged so tightly…..

   

Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue was founded by Sharon Bond and Jacklyn Glover who started with rescuing horses in 2003. Then in 2007, they began to rescue alpacas. There are very few animal rescues dedicated to the saving of alpacas but the need exists. Too often gelded males, older females and otherwise unwanted alpacas are passed from farm to farm, or they are put down for little or no reason other than they are a burden to the current owner. I was able to learn that llamas are bigger than alpacas. Alpacas love love love to be sprayed with the water hose and I had the distinct privilege to spray them down and watch them jump in the cool water and then lay in the cool dirt now that they were nice and wet. It was so cute!

Alpacas only live to about 15 years old but these can get to 20 or older since they are so loved and spoiled here at Cross Creek

If you could see them, you would fall in love with them just as I have. I didn’t even know alpacas could be abused or neglected…but they are just like any other farm animal that people don’t take care of. She is a hero and every alpaca rescued is one out of harm’s way.

What is abuse/neglect?
Abuse of animals could be defined many ways depending in which context you are speaking and to whom. In Webster’s dictionary abuse is defined as; to hurt by treating badly; mistreatment; causing injury.
Neglect is defined in Webster’s as; not to care for sufficiently or properly; slight; to treat as unimportant, through carelessness or by intention.

Many of her alpacas came from a rescue in 2014 from Polk County, Oregon. The owners of Jocelyn’s Alpaca Ranch in Falls City were charged with several counts of animal neglect in 2014 after alpacas on the farm were found dead or starving. (*CAN YOU IMAGE!??* THAT’S SO SAD!)
Jocelyn and Robert Silver were both indicted on 18 crimes: felony first-degree animal neglect, felony second-degree animal neglect and 16 counts of misdemeanor first-degree animal neglect.
They were arraigned on the charges Tuesday afternoon after press time. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has seized and is caring for 175 alpacas. Later the news came out that there were as many as 200 being kept on 3 acres with little or no food.These animals were in terrible conditions and as many as 50 have already died before the rescue.

Cross Creek’s website is full of information:

Why does she want to rescue an Alpaca?
Alpacas are not native to the United State of America. Since 1984, alpacas have been imported from Peru, Bolivia and Chile into the United States. Alpacas, cousins to the llama, are native to the Andean Mountain range of South America. In their native lands they have been used for clothing, food and heat for many thousands of years. In the US, attempts are being made to develop industries utilizing the fiber produced by alpacas. Because of its soft texture, alpaca fiber is sometimes compared to cashmere. Containing no lanolin, alpaca fiber is also naturally hypoallergenic.

The alpaca industry has grown steadily with current estimates totally over 120,000 registered alpacas with the Alpaca Registry, Inc (ARI) in the US. Due to the small size of the national herd, the alpaca industry is a breeder’s market. This has led to the discarding of non-breeding alpacas due to age, deformity, illness and poor breeding practices. In recent years, many intelligent alpacas have been discarded as of no worth, due mainly to the lack of human understanding. Because of the influx of alpacas, there have been increases in neglect, abused and abandoned animals. The well-being of the alpaca is put into jeopardy. This was reason enough to be a hero and rescue them. I applaud her efforts and want to share her story with the world!

 

 

Click here to learn more or DONATE to : Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue Farm

A note from her:

CCAR is a 501c(3) non-profit organization,

and they rely entirely on private & adoption donations to pay for medication, veterinary expenses and feed.

All contributions are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

SEND A CARD

Send a complimentary card with your donation to CCAR to let your family and friends know about the special donation you gave in their name.

Whether it be birthday, anniversary or in memory of someone, they will send them a personalized card.

When you use PayPal, you can attach a note to them that will let them know that you would like to SEND A CARD.  Or on their website you click on CONTACT US, and send them an email.  They will then contact you by email to get the needed information to send the perfect card for you. For more info call: (360) 350-3813

Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue welcomes your support. GO CHECK THEM OUT–Tell them AUTHOR LAURA ARANDA sent you!

Interview with Sharon Wilharm, Filmmaker, Blogger, Speaker Part One of Summer of ’67 Series

posted on: March 5, 2018

Over the next several weeks, I will feature five incredible women the world needs to know about.

This week we begin the Summer of ’67 series Part One with Filmmaker Sharon Wilharm.

The name of her movie is Summer of ’67, a Vietnam War romance.

You can check out the website www.summerof67.com  and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Summerof67themovie/ to watch the trailer and learn more about the movie.

We will have four of her amazing actresses that we’ll be lining up interviews for to start their film festival circuit in May and they will do a limited theatrical release in late July.
Below is the interview with the strong and beautiful Sharon Wilharm. Enjoy!

Please tell the readers a little about yourself by starting off with 2-3 specific accomplishments or experiences. 

I’m Sharon Wilharm, filmmaker, blogger, and speaker. Working together with my husband, I’ve written and directed seven feature films. They’ve screened in festivals around the world, aired on multiple television networks, and sold in bookstores and online outlets including iTunes and Amazon Prime.
Providence, our last movie released as part of the AMC Independent lineup and screened in select theaters across the country including AMC Empire in NYC.
Summer of ’67, our latest film, will make the film festival circuit this summer and release theatrically in late summer.
When I’m not caught up in the filmmaking process, I blog about the faith-based film industry and speak at film festivals and writing conferences.
What are your greatest professional strengths?

I’m a planner. I’m very organized and whatever I’m doing, I give it everything I’ve got. I also try to be kind and respectful of other people. The film industry can be a very stressful environment, but I try to appreciate and encourage cast and crew members as well as fellow filmmakers.

What would be a few of your greatest Weaknesses?

I tend to set unrealistic expectations for myself and feel disappointed when I don’t live up to my expectations.

Do you have a nonprofit organization you admire or contribute to?

I don’t have a pet charity. I much prefer to see an individual need and react to it on a  personal or local level.

What do you think you have had to overcome to be who you are today?
 

The older I get and the more I learn, the more I realize how much more I have to learn. As a teen and younger adult, I was cocky. I think God had to bring me down a few notches so that I would be a more suitable vessel to be used by Him.

I totally understand that! I believe he has to do that to so many of us. There are so many examples of him doing such to many of his leaders. Saul is one example I can think of. 
What is the last book that has made you cry? 
I read the most amazing book this weekend, and we were literally late for church this morning because I had to finish reading the last chapter before we left. But then I dropped it off at the church library and now, for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the book.

HA! Oh no! Well, if you remember send me a message so I can share that with our readers. We could just say you were reading my book! HAHA-

You are doing so much but what else? What’s your dream job? 

 
Traveling the country speaking to women’s groups. My favorite place to be is in front of a large crowd, passionately sharing from my heart.
Public speaking is a fear for so many. That’s amazing. We need good public speakers out there. 
Sharon Flowers from front
What is your definition of success? 

I want to impact lives in a big way. I want to leave a legacy that’s still impacting lives long after I’m gone.

Would you say you are successful and in what ways? 

That’s a tough question. I have a fireplace mantle covered with film festival trophies. I’ve been mentioned in film trade magazines, and my movie screened in one of the most famous theaters in the country. I’ve been blessed with what the world would define as success. But have I truly impacted lives? I don’t know. I may never know.

Wow. What a sobering thought.

crown awards
What is your greatest professional achievement?
 
In 2016 we submitted Providence to the ICVM Crown awards. ICVM is the industry organization for faith films. We were new to the organization, but knew that we would be competing with movies much bigger than ours. We hoped we might get nominated for one award, but really weren’t expecting it. Then we received word we were nominated for four awards! We were blown away, especially when we saw the other films that were up for awards.  We were excited just to attend the awards dinner with no expectations for any recognition beyond the nominations.
Well, first we won third place for “Best Youth Film.” Then second place for “Best Evangelistic” (sandwiched between Beyond the Mask  and War Room !). Then first place for “Best Drama Under $250,000. And finally, out of 55 movies, we were awarded third place for “Best Picture”. The entire experience was surreal. I’m still not sure how that happened, but thankful for the encouragement God offered us that night.

Do you have long term goals that you can share with the readers?

Growing up, my greatest desire was to entertain and inspire audiences. For years I prayed to be able to speak to large crowds, but while I’d have the occasional speaking opportunities, for the most part, God kept saying, “No, not yet… not yet.”
I’m thankful, though, that my filmmaking days are winding down and God is allowing me more speaking opportunities.  I look forward to the time, hopefully in the near future, when I can spend my days writing historical novels and traveling around the country speaking to groups of women.

 If a young person walked up to you asking for your advice and you only had a few minutes to give them your best tip, what would it be?

I would tell them to pray diligently and to commit to following God’s lead, even when it doesn’t make sense. I would tell them to take risks and not settle for the safe and easy route for their lives. I would tell them to love God with all their heart.

Have you ever created a vision board? 

Not in the traditional sense, however, I do have Pinterest boards that I use for inspiration.

Do you have a favorite motto that you live by?

Follow God wherever He leads!

If anyone is interested in contacting you further what’s the easiest way(s) to reach you???
My website – www.sharonwilharm.com
My blog – www.faithflix.com
They each have contact forms.
I’d also love if folks could check out Summer of ’67 on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and give us a follow.

Girl, Taken – An interview with Author Elena Nikitina

posted on: February 6, 2018

Name:

Elena Nikitina

Age:

To me, age is a state of mind.  Depending on the day, I can feel myself anywhere between 18 and 90.

What are you passionate about? 

I’m an artist at heart.  I enjoy writing, painting and photography.  My other passions are Latin dance and shooting weapons at the range.  I love to work out and create things as well.  I love to design new stuff from scratch or transform ugly things into beautiful ones. I love fashion and my dream is to create a fashion clothing line one day. I’m also passionate about real estate – I’m a licensed agent in Ohio.

What human trafficking looks like and how does it affect American youth? 

Human trafficking is illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor.  Behind those words there are many broken human lives.  Each story is an incredible tragedy of a person who is torn away from his normal life and deprived of his freedom and human rights.

Young people are particularly vulnerable, as criminals can find victims and manipulate them through internet, social media and private chats. One report cited “13 years old as the most common age in Ohio for youth to become victims of child sex trafficking”.

What motivated you to write a book and more importantly what inspired you to get involved with bringing awareness to human trafficking? 

The book Girl, Taken – is a true story about kidnapping and survival.  The plot of my book took place in real life and I just described it in my own words.

I saw and experienced things no one should have to go through.  I’m sure that right now, right at this particular moment, there is someone who is suffering from being a victim of kidnapping or trafficking or facing a similar ordeal in life.  I wanted to deliver a message to those who seek hope or to those who are about to give up. Hope and faith should never leave you, even in the moment of total and all-consuming despair.

Every human trafficking story looks similar to mine.  The incredible tragedy that involves not only one person – it’s an adversity for all family members.  Unfortunately, most people consider human trafficking as a problem of the past or believe that it is limited to being outside the United States only. Only by bringing awareness and education about this problem taking place everywhere there will be a chance to fight this crime.

Tell us a few statistics concerning human trafficking in your city and the surrounding areas. 

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery that occurs in every state, including Ohio.  Ohio ranks number five in the nation for the most human trafficking cases. Last year, 375 Ohio trafficking cases were reported based on calls to the national hotline–according to Polaris, a nonprofit organization that tracks human trafficking cases in America and across the world.

If any readers might think a loved one is in harm’s way what would be a few actions you would suggest so they can get the help they need?

The professional help from the therapist and a good family environment are the best sources, in my opinion.

What steps did you take to begin bringing awareness and getting involved?

I’m at the very beginning of my journey at the moment. I think social media is the best way to bring the awareness.

What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them? 

Through the horrifying months of my captivity – witnessing atrocities, surviving bombings and sexual violence, and trapped in a land where countless people were dying every day, I fought desperately to stay alive, stay sane and not lose the one thing that kept me going – my hope.

We never know what we are capable of until we are placed in a situation when you have to make a choice – stay strong or break down.  Choose to remain a victim or choose to become a survivor.

At some point, I decided for myself – I wanted to be a survivor and not a victim.  I like to believe we can all make this choice, no matter the hardships we face in life.

What advice would you give to parents of youth? 

Pay attention and talk to your children.  Be proud of what they are accomplishing.  Love them.

So many people have dreams and want to start nonprofits or businesses because they have a burning desire to change the world. They want to be men or women of influence with a powerful message. Then doubt sets in or failure happens. 

-What are your thoughts about this? 

Robert Kiyosaki – famous American businessman and author – once said: “Winners are not afraid of losing.  But losers are.  Failure is part of the process of success.  People who avoid failure also avoid success”.

Pursuing things that truly matter gives people a sense of purpose and this, in turn, will help people persevere in their pursuits.

-What would your message to these people include? 

Take a risk to make a difference.  If you win, you will be happy.  If you lose, you learn.

What is your favorite quote or mantra?

This too shall pass.

My favorite of all times, meaning that nothing is permanent.

When everything is good, remember that it won’t last forever. So, enjoy and cherish it while you can. When things are bad, remember that it won’t last forever. Have faith, bad times eventually will pass.

What motivates you?

Achieving the desired results motivates me.

When was the last time you were out of your comfort zone?

A few days ago, I was honored to give a public speech about my book Girl, Taken.  That was something I have never done before and had zero experience with. I was way out of my comfort zone.

What are your most important gifts you have to offer your city and state?

Every voice has an influence. Many voices have the power to change the world or to stop a crime.  To be involved in the organization or a group with like-minded people – is a gift that every citizen should offer to their community to improve the quality of life.

If anyone is interested in contacting you further what would be the easiest way to reach you? 

The best way to reach me is through one of my social media accounts:

www.girltaken.com

https://www.facebook.com/elenaleonidovnanikitina

https://www.facebook.com/girltaken.truestory/

https://www.instagram.com/elena.l.nikitina/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsURhjE6wpOR_yo9ANWWAw/videos?view_as=subscriber

Is there anything else you want me to know that will help me write this article?

As I mentioned earlier, I wrote a book Girl, Taken – A True Story of Abduction, Captivity and Survival.  In 1994, just after my 21st birthday, I was drugged and abducted from my hometown in southern Russia by a group of gangsters. The idea was to hold me for ransom, but an unfortunate thing happened.  Soon after my kidnapping, the first Russian-Chechen War broke out…

I would love to share my story with the readers of your blog.

Readers love Girl, Taken.

Here’s a small sample of what they are saying:

“This book will astonish and inspire you.  It is the harrowing tale of a young woman who saved her own life through nothing more than courage, determination, and inner strength.”

“One of the best books I’ve read in the past few years…”

“Girl, Taken kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time.  She is lucky to be alive.  Very intense, hard to put it down.  I would definitely suggest you enjoy the book for yourself and feel what it’s like to be kidnapped…”

Girl, Taken – A True Story of Abduction, Captivity and Survival.  You can check it out on Amazon

Human Trafficking Awareness Interview with Michigan State Police Trooper Steven Kramer of Flint Post

posted on: January 29, 2018

Interview with Flint, Michigan State Trooper, Steven Kramer

Steven A. Kramer, age 44 is a community Service Trooper of Michigan State Police-Flint Post. For over the last four years, Trooper Kramer has pledged to do something to change the dynamics of the way human trafficking is viewed and dealt with in Flint, Michigan. Flint is well-known as the city drowning in so many other problems and fighting so many difficult obstacles. Studying online recorded the racial make-up of Flint consists of 57% black; 37% white while 42% of Flint residents live below the poverty line. The average household income is only $39,000.

Flint has ranked as one of America’s most dangerous cities for several years based on FBI crime statistics of violent crimes per capita.

Human Trafficking is just one more nightmare this city is trying to combat.
Human trafficking is both sex and labor trafficking.  It is a form of modern-day slavery that occurs around the world and in the United States.  It involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, or receiving a person through the use of FORCE, FRAUD, or COERCION.  ANYONE can be a victim of human trafficking and ANYONE can be a trafficker. Flint and Michigan State Police are hoping to bridge the gap with Flint neighborhoods.

Below is an interview with one of the heroes on Flint, Michigan streets.

 
How long have you worked in this field?
I have been with the Michigan State Police for twenty years.  I have been in my current role as a Community Service Trooper /Recruiter for almost five years.   I have been involved with Human Trafficking awareness for about the last four years.  My partner, Trooper Amy Belanger  also works in this field and is heavily involved with human trafficking.  We have been partners for about three and a half years.
 
What are you passionate about?
I would say I’m very passionate about my job, especially  the work I am currently doing with the community. One message I want the world to understand is there is no such thing as a juvenile prostitute! If they are under age, it is trafficking!

What does Human Trafficking look like and how does it affect American Youth?
This is a tough question to answer, because it can look like so many different things.
Human trafficking is a crime that affects victims of any age, gender, race, or immigration status. Human trafficking occurs in all parts of this country – from cities, to suburbs, to rural areas.

Traffickers/Pimps are constantly coming up with new ways to lure our youth into this lifestyle.  They prey on desperation, curiosity, and naivety. 

Pimps/Traffickers can be girls, women, boys, young men, and older men.  Many kids are runaways at the time of recruitment.  Between 100,000 and 200,000 of United States Children are taken into trafficking each year.  The desired starting age is twelve to thirteen for girls and twelve years old for boys.

What motivated you to become a state trooper and more importantly what inspired you to get involved with bringing awareness to human trafficking?
My main motivation to become a State Trooper was my father.  My father worked for and retired from the Detroit Police Department as a Detective Sgt.   For as long as I can remember, being a police officer is all I ever wanted to be.  I look up to my father and have much respect for him.  I guess I wanted to follow in his footsteps.  It was his suggestion to join the Michigan State Police if I really wanted to be a police officer.
I would say the more I learned about human trafficking and how it happens everywhere, I became interested in seeing what I could do to help.
I joined the Genesee County Human Trafficking task force and began to learn more about it.   I also attended presentations from victims speaking about their experiences.   I see how it happens and how it affects our communities.  I felt that helping to educate the community was a great way to help.

Tell us a few statistics concerning human trafficking in Flint, Michigan and the surrounding areas.
It happens in Flint, Michigan the same way it happens everywhere in the United States.
Some interesting statistics:

  • 62% of victims are tricked into trafficking by someone they know and trust (boyfriend/girlfriend, best friend, ect.).
  • 35% of victims are sold into human trafficking by their own family.
    Only 3% of victims are kidnapped.
  • Every year, 300,000 children in the U.S. are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation.
  • Every minute, two children become victims of sexual exploitation.
    A trafficker/pimp will know within seconds of contacting their victim if they “got them”.
  • It takes as little as 8 minutes for a trafficker to win over his/her target.
  • 90% of all the children trafficked for sexual purposes are American children.
  • There are as many as 2.8 million runaway children each year in the U.S.
  • Within 48 hours of a child being on the street, 1 in 3 will be approached by a sex trafficker.
  • The most common approach is the “lover boy” approach.
  • This is where the trafficker will appear interested in a romantic relationship while gradually coercing the victim into prostitution.

If any readers might think a loved one is in harm’s way what would be a few actions you would suggest so they can get the help they need?
Be aware of and look for the warning signs.
Some warning signs of a victim include:

  • unexplained absences from school,
  • inability to attend school,
  • runs away from home,
  • makes references to frequent travel,
  • sudden changes in behavior or material possessions,
  • makes reference to sexual situations that are beyond ages specific norms,
  • drug addiction,
  • signs of physical abuse,
  • Avoids eye contact,
  • fearful of authority figures.

There is a lot of valuable information online at sources like the FBI, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Polaris project, and many more.

The National Human Trafficking hotline number is 888-373-7888
 

What steps did you take to begin bringing awareness and getting involved?

I am a member of the Genesee County and Shiawassee County Human Trafficking task forces.  I give presentations on human trafficking awareness at:
churches,
schools,
community action groups,
neighborhood associations,
Law enforcement,
Fire stations,
EMS,
Medical professionals,
and anyone who requests one.

What advice would you give to parents of youth?
Monitor your children’s activity!!!  I can’t stress that enough.  Kids today have cell phones, tablets, computers with basically unlimited access to the Internet.  Parents are too trusting of their kids.  We should be keeping tabs on what our kids are doing!
There is no such thing as violating your kids privacy when they are under 18!! 
You should know what your kids are doing online including:

  • Who they’re talking to,
  • Apps on their phones,
  • Online places visited.

If anyone is interested in contacting you further what would be the easiest way to reach you?
The best way to contact me is via Email: KramerS1@michigan.gov
Storytelling is never going to go away. I am honored to have the opportunity to be an outlet of sorts to bring honor to

Michigan State Police Trooper
Steven A. Kramer
Flint Post
Community Service Trooper/Recruiter

Men like Steven need to be recognized for all they do to help open eyes and bring awareness to the crisis of human trafficking in Flint, Michigan and around our country. Together as a community and as a country we can make small steps to help bring awareness and support to those affected by human trafficking.

One person that has been personally impacted by his actions is Rebecca Huey. I’ve spoke with her many times. She’s a phenomenal person.
She had the privilege to meet Michigan State Police Officer Trooper Kramer, Flint Post when she was a special guest speaker as a Christian Actress for a Human Trafficking event held by the Genessee County Medical Society Alliance in 2015.

Now as an Entrepreneur, Actress and Motivational Speaker, Rebecca Huey’s life has been changed for the positive by being able to share her story with Trooper Kramer which gave her the opportunity to begin to heal. Over time, she was able to share with Trooper Kramer her story and journey and how she is overcoming and excelling today.
Rebecca is an American actress known for her award-winning role Store Clerk “Best Cast” in redemptive romance feature film Providence that came to theaters in February of 2016. She was nominated and chosen Top 10 and Top 3 in 2015 and Top 1 in 2016-2017 by fans from across the world and Faith Flix Films, Tennessee for her press release interview.
Faith Flix Films released her interview in 2015 and it has traveled around the world bringing many others hope – the only hope that can be found in Jesus Christ.


Rebecca is also a female business entrepreneur that holds a business degree from a private college and is the owner of Education Creation LLC with Trademark Cursive Kidz™.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm8830953/

So in her words concerning Trooper Kramer:

He is a voice for me and so many others that don’t have the strength to speak right away. He has gone above and beyond his job. He deserves to be honored and recognized for his sacrificial hard work, tireless effort to help others, superior dedication to combat human trafficking and for being a loyal trusted voice for those that don’t have the strength to speak. 
He is doing so much to help so many others in human trafficking in Michigan. He has helped me more than he will ever know and he deserves to be recognized for all he is doing. -Rebecca M. Huey 

America tips her hat to you, sir. Thank you. Keep up the good fight. We stand with you.

Written by Author Laura Aranda who published her first novel titled, Pushing Back the Darkness in April 2017. This novel brings awareness to human trafficking in America. You can find the book on Amazon or at her blog: Www.authorlauraaranda.com

For speaking engagements email: lauraaranda@owlofhope.com