CATHOLIC HERALD STAFF
The Franciscan Peacemakers’ social enterprise, Gifts for the Journey, is a familiar presence at local farmers markets and church craft sales — but as of Oct. 26, their line of handcrafted bath and body products and jewelry has a more permanent home base at a new retail store in Walnut Hill.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Saturday, Oct. 26, to mark the opening of the space at 3333 W. Lisbon Ave., Milwaukee, which also includes a Hospitality Center and manufacturing area. The day was a “joyful five-hour celebration” that welcomed around 350 people, said Dcn. Steve Przedpelski, executive director of Franciscan Peacemakers.
The store’s opening comes as the organization embarks on its 25th year in existence. Franciscan Peacemakers was founded in 1995 by the Capuchin Province of St. Joseph to provide street outreach and support to women engaging in prostitution in Milwaukee; since 2012, the organization’s social enterprise has provided survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking with a means of employment and professional and personal development. They make, market and sell the “Gifts for the Journey” bath and body products and jewelry, available for purchase online and at select retailers throughout the Milwaukee area (a full list can be viewed at www.franciscanpeacemakers.com/services/social-enterprise).
“The social enterprise is a critical third part of our holistic approach for the women healing from the trauma of sexual exploitation and being trafficked,” said Dcn. Przedpelski. “We are able to provide housing for two years while the women work on recovery from drug addiction and focus on healing from the trauma caused by forced prostitution and drug addiction. Being able to provide living-wage employment allows the women to learn who they are, what they want to do with their lives and to enjoy life while having the ability to save between $9,000 and $10,000 so they have a nest egg to help them start after completing their two-year stay.”’
The enterprise’s new permanent presence on Lisbon Avenue will allow staff to spend more time with women who are forced into prostitution, said Dcn. Przedpelski. The area is known for experiencing high levels of trafficking activity.
“We have high hopes of being able to create at least eight new living wage jobs between 2020 and 2022 for survivors of sex trafficking,” he said. “I am grateful for all of the financial support we receive from individual donors, Catholic parishes, Catholic foundations and other foundations and churches to be a beacon of hope not only on West Lisbon Avenue and other Milwaukee neighborhoods but in Sheboygan, Washington and Waukesha counties, where human trafficking routinely occurs.”
The retail store’s hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.