Life: The Final Chapter, Write Your Own Ending

More people in the baby boomer generation are reaching age 65 – some 10,000 a day until 2030 (Pew Research Center, 2010). I happen to be one of those this year. As usual, each milestone for my generation causes social change. The most recent to attract my attention is the book Being Mortal by Dr. Atul Gwande. At first, I thought the primary reason for my interest was because of my occupation as a nurse practitioner, and how often I experienced the realities of Dr. Gwande’s book lived out in a nursing home where I worked prior to my retirement.

However, I soon learned that just like other previously unspoken topics, (think natural childbirth, fathers in the delivery room, menopause, sexual assault, etc.) my interest in death and dying is a trend. Boomers usually first get initiated into the end of life processes through the death of our parents or other family members. One thing gained from this experience is usually the certainty that we don’t want our last days to happen the same way. There are far too many loose ends.

When assuming responsibility for anyone during the end of life process, we are suddenly forced to realize how much we don’t know. For example: What legal/financial documents are needed or need completing? Where are they? What is the prognosis? What are the treatment options? How do I talk to someone who is dying? Where can I get help taking care of my loved one? How much will it cost? Does my insurance cover it?

Our society’s sanitation of dying and the discomfort with the topic has left us woefully unprepared for an event we know will inevitably occur. If we are sensible, we do not act like ostriches, but instead poke our heads out of the sand and explore this scary topic to learn the roadmap for what needs to be done before a crisis in our own life renders us unable to literally have a voice.

As with most issues of the boomers, we are not a passive group! Just as Lamaze classes taught us what to expect, more people realize that learning some details about an upcoming situation makes it less frightening. Having time to digest information and construct a personalized plan makes us calmer and feel more in control.

After reading Being Mortal by Dr. Atul Gwande, I began to seriously look for tools to help me articulate and document how I would like my “Last Chapter” to be. To my delight, I’m finding workbooks that pose many questions and situations that have helped me write my wishes and enabled me to share them with my sons.

Probably the most important question for anyone is, “what happens when I die?” Knowledge of common fears, wishes, symbols, language, and behavior can help all of us to glimpse the important journey from this life to the afterlife.

I’m finding the stories helpful on a very practical level and reassuring on a spiritual level. Join WIN in learning the answers to the questions you have not yet thought about asking.

On Tuesday, September 27, 2016, from 1 P.M – 5 P.M., The Women’s Information Network, Inc. is hosting an event called “Life: The Last Chapter – Write Your Own Ending.” The event will include a panel of speakers, a light lunch, and workbook outlining the important documents needed for end of life decisions. Following the presentations, all speakers will be available for an informal question and answer session during a reception with light refreshments.

Registration is required and the cost is $20.00. This fee includes lunch, the program, and a workbook of materials. Call 706-506-2000 to register. Visit for more details.


Sharon Baker is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women.  She is a retired nurse practitioner and is President and Founder of the Women’s Information Network, Inc.  She lives in Rome, Georgia.

Get Enough Calcium—Natural or Supplemental!


A major strategy for preventing broken bones is our daily diet.

Calcium is essential for many bodily functions including the ability of blood to clot.  This mineral is stored in bone and is responsible for bone strength.  The body cannot make calcium, so it must be obtained either through the foods eaten or through supplements.  If you do not get enough, your body will remove calcium from your bones to survive.  Poor diet is a major contributor to the epidemic of fractured bones due to the bone thinning disease called osteoporosis.  While calcium should be obtained from the diet, many people do not eat sufficient amounts of calcium-rich foods.

Everyone most likely knows that dairy products are rich in calcium.  However, many individuals don’t like milk or are lactose intolerant.  Many people skip meals, don’t eat a balanced diet, drink carbonated beverages that deplete calcium, take medications that impair calcium absorption or suffer from anorexia or bulimia.  Any problems with adequate food intake causes a number of problems; but the risk of osteoporosis and broken bones is high on the list of reasons to improve one’s diet. Approximately 1000 – 1200 mg. of calcium daily is recommended.  Use the guide below to get ideas of additional calcium-rich foods to add to your weekly shopping list.  Try keeping a diet diary to record your intake for a week and see how you are doing at making deposits in your “bone bank.”  Several recipes are listed at the end of the article as well as resources for more information.  There are also several tips to “sneak” calcium into the foods you prepare for yourself and your family.

Examples of Food Sources of Calcium
From the National Osteoporosis Foundation:

Produce          Serving Size Estimated Calcium*
Collard greens, frozen 8 oz 360 mg
Broccoli rabe 8 oz 200 mg
Kale, frozen 8 oz 180 mg
Soy Beans, green, boiled 8 oz 175 mg
Bok Choy, cooked, boiled 8 oz 160 mg
Figs, dried 2 figs 65 mg
Broccoli, fresh, cooked 8 oz 60 mg
Oranges 1 whole 55 mg
Seafood Serving Size Estimated Calcium*
Sardines, canned with bones 3 oz 325 mg
Salmon, canned with bones 3 oz 180 mg
Shrimp, canned 3 oz 125 mg
Dairy Serving Size Estimated Calcium*
Ricotta, part-skim 4 oz 335 mg
Yogurt, plain, low-fat 6 oz 310 mg
Milk, skim, low-fat, whole 8 oz 300 mg
Yogurt with fruit, low-fat 6 oz 260 mg
Mozzarella, part-skim 1 oz 210 mg
Cheddar 1 oz 205 mg
Yogurt, Greek 6 oz 200 mg
American Cheese 1 oz 195 mg
Feta Cheese 4 oz 140 mg
Cottage Cheese, 2% 4 oz 105 mg
Frozen yogurt, vanilla 8 oz 105 mg
Ice Cream, vanilla 8 oz 85 mg
Parmesan 1 tbsp 55 mg
Fortified Food Serving Size Estimated Calcium*
Almond milk, rice milk or soy milk, fortified 8 oz 300 mg
Orange juice and other fruit juices, fortified 8 oz 300 mg
Tofu, prepared with calcium 4 oz 205 mg
Waffle, frozen, fortified 2 pieces 200 mg
Oatmeal, fortified 1 packet 140 mg
English muffin, fortified 1 muffin 100 mg
Cereal, fortified 8 oz 100-1,000 mg
Other Serving Size Estimated Calcium*
Mac & cheese, frozen 1 package 325 mg
Pizza, cheese, frozen 1 serving 115 mg
Pudding, chocolate, prepared with 2% milk 4 oz 160 mg
Beans, baked, canned 4 oz 160 mg

*The calcium content listed for most foods is estimated and can vary due to multiple factors. Check the food label to determine how much calcium is in a particular product.

Calcium Supplements

Calcium supplements are one way to increase your daily intake of calcium.  They are available at your grocery store or pharmacy and can be taken as tablets, liquids, beverages, chewable candies, or easily-dissolved lozenges.  Calcium comes in different forms.  The two main forms are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate.  Your body can use either form as long as you take it as directed.

Calcium-fortified foods might be an option, but they are more like supplements than natural sources of calcium and can vary in how well the body absorbs and utilizes this source.  Fortified orange juice, according to most studies is generally as good as milk. Watch out for the sugar levels!

Supplements need to be used carefully and daily recommended dosages not exceeded. High doses of calcium can interfere with certain medications and have been linked with the development of kidney stones.  Take supplements with meals or a high acid beverage such as orange juice to help with absorption.  Be sure to drink lots of water.  Put down the coke or carbonated beverages—a major causative factor with kidney stones because it is substituted for water and they deplete calcium.

Examples of Calcium Supplements

Brand Type Calcium Content

(mg per serving)

Caltrate® 600 Calcium carbonate 600
Citracal® Calcium citrate 400
OsCal® Calcium carbonate 250 or 500
TUMS EX® Calcium carbonate 600
Viactiv® Calcium carbonate 500













Breakfast burritos: Make them with scrambled eggs, refried beans or fat-free black beans and cheese. These can be made ahead, refrigerated and heated a bit in a pan when you want breakfast.  Hummus could also be mixed with chopped hard-boiled egg either in a pita, a wrap, or on bread.

Quick Breakfast: Mix your favorite healthy cereal with a 5.3-oz tub of low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt. Use the yogurt as you would milk to have a crunchy breakfast. Add any fresh fruit if you like.


Sandwich: Add a slice of cheese to a sandwich.  Make a queso dip with veggies.

Soup: Have creamed soups.


Add powdered milk to your meatloaf.  Have more green vegetables with high calcium content.  Make salmon croquettes. Go vegetarian for several meals.  Use cottage cheese with fruit as a main course.  Serve puddings for dessert instead of cake or pie. 

Other Resources:  The National Osteoporosis Foundation

The National Institute of Health Medline Plus


Sharon Baker, BSN, MN, CWHNP, is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women.  She is also President & Founder of WIN.

Calcium Rich Cheese Makes Everything Better

The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that osteoporosis and low bone mass affect 54 million Americans over the age of 50.  Osteoporosis causes an estimated two million broken bones each year, and the aftereffects are often devastating, resulting in pain, loss of mobility, and the need for long-term care.  You can reduce your risk of getting osteoporosis by getting plenty of calcium in your diet now.  It is never too early to start eating for bone health.

Lunchbox Pizza

Lunchbox Pizza

A diet rich in calcium is as important for growing bones as it is for aging ones.  The National Institutes of Health recommends children over 4 years-old get at least 1,000 mg per day, with adolescents needing at least 1,300 mg per day.

Getting enough calcium in a kid’s diet can be challenging, especially if they do not like to drink milk.  Most kids like cheese, though, (at least mine do) so cheese can be an effective secret weapon in the fight to calcium fortify our kids.  Hard cheese, like cheddar and jack, have 200 mg of calcium per one ounce serving, while Swiss or gruyere contain 270 mg per serving.  (An ounce of cheese is about one inch cubed or one 3-inch-by-3-inch slice.)

Prepackaged cheese sticks make it easy to add calcium to the lunchbox every day.  The cheesy recipes below will help you add a little calcium at lunch and dinnertime as well as please little palates.


Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese

This recipe is based on Alton Brown’s recipe at Food Network.  The original is very good and can be found here.  I modified the recipe based on my kids’ tastes.

½ pound elbow macaroni
4 TBS Butter
2 Eggs
¾ cup Milk, Cream, or Half-and-Half (Whatever is in the fridge.)
1 tsp salt
Fresh Black Pepper to taste
¾ tsp dry mustard
10 ounces Sharp Cheddar, shredded

Cook macaroni according to package directions and drain.  Return to the pot and stir in butter until melted.

Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and mustard.  Stir into the pot along with the shredded cheese and stir over low heat until creamy and the cheese is melted.

Yields 4-6 servings


Lunchbox Pizza

1 Flour Tortilla
2 TBS Pizza Sauce, packed in a plastic portion cup
Mozzarella Cheese, sliced or shredded

Package each item separately.  Kids can assemble the tortilla, pepperoni, and cheese at lunch, roll it up, and dip it in the sauce.


My Favorite Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Version 1

Two slices honey wheat bread
Three slices Genoa salami
Two slices provolone cheese
½ pear, thinly sliced
Fleischman’s Olive Oil Spread

Version 2

Two slices honey wheat bread
Three slices ham
Two slices cheddar cheese
½ apple, thinly sliced
Fleischman’s Olive Oil Spread

Lay two slices of bread flat, and put a slice of cheese on each piece of bread.  Assemble remaining ingredients and close up sandwich.  Spread Fleischman’s Olive Oil Spread on each slice of bread, and cook in a skillet over medium heat until bread is brown and the cheese is melted.


Karla Jacobs is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women.  She lives in Marietta with her husband two kids, a dog, and some fish.

May is National Osteoporosis Prevention Month!!


I have been doing osteoporosis screening and education for many years.  Once again it is the month to focus on prevention of osteoporosis.  As I began to write this article, I began to review the statements produced by the national organizations focused on this disabling disease.  Unfortunately, the statistics have not improved, but the incidence has increased.

For example, The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) states the following:

*Millions of Americans – 54 million to be exact – have low bone density or osteoporosis. In fact, about one in two women and up to one in four men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

*A woman’s risk of breaking a hip due to osteoporosis is equal to her risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer combined. And a man age 50 or older is more likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis than he is to get prostate cancer.


Silent Epidemic

*The unfortunate fact about osteoporosis is there are no warning signs or symptoms. Unless one is proactive and gets recommended screening, a fracture (broken bone) may announce the presence of this disease.

*Osteoporosis is basically a disease of imbalance. Bone is constantly changing.  When the new bone making cells don’t keep up with those breaking down old bone, the skeleton is at risk.  A fracture happens when you lose too much bone, make too little bone, or both. As a result, your bones become fragile and may break from a minor fall or, in serious cases, even from sneezing or bumping into furniture.

*The good news is that early detection of low bone mass can signal a need for action that can prevent future pain and disability.

*Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help slow or stop the loss of bone mass and help prevent fractures.

*Now, there are also a variety of medications that can slow bone loss or actually re-build bone.

*So…..What to do? I recommend getting informed, make lifestyle adjustments as indicated, get screened, seek treatment as needed and prevent falls.  Credible resources on line are listed at the end of this article.  Look them up and take action!

Things to Do


NOF recommends the following three steps for bone health:

1.  Aim to get the recommended daily amount of calcium you need from food first and supplement only as needed to make up for any shortfall. There is no benefit to taking more calcium than the recommended daily amount and too much may be harmful. Vitamin D may not be present at adequate levels in food, so you may need to take a supplement to get the recommended amount of vitamin D.

2.  Maintain an overall healthy lifestyle by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, exercising and not smoking or drinking too much alcohol.

3.  If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, work with your healthcare provider to determine an appropriate treatment plan. This may include medication, as well as counseling on consuming a bone healthy diet rich in both calcium and vitamin D that includes the amounts recommended, and exercise regimen. Follow your plan and consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your treatment.

Resource Recommendation:  The National Osteoporosis Foundation


Sharon Baker, BSN, MN, CWHNP, is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women.  She is also President & Founder of WIN.

Start Your Day with a Dose of Calcium

May is National Osteoporosis Month

The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that osteoporosis and low bone mass affect 54 million Americans over the age of 50.  Osteoporosis causes an estimated two million broken bones each year, and the aftereffects are often devastating, resulting in pain, loss of mobility, and the need for long-term care.  You can reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis by getting plenty of calcium in your diet now.  It is never too early to start eating for bone health.

Smoothie-2 webI’m sure your mother told you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  It is.  Fueling your body after a full night’s sleep (you did get a full night’s sleep, right?) sets the stage for an active and productive day.

The problem is breakfast is the meal we have the least time to prepare.  Getting ourselves out the door in the morning leaves little time to sit down and eat, so breakfast is often something we can make quickly or grab and go.

Breakfast food is an excellent source of a significant portion of your daily calcium needs.  Pairing calcium-fortified cereal with milk or having some yogurt and fruit with a glass of calcium-fortified orange juice gets you ahead of the calcium game for the day.  Neither of these is very portable, though.

One of my favorite breakfasts on the go is a yogurt-based smoothie.  I like to throw whatever frozen fruit I have in the freezer in a blender, add a liberal splash of orange juice or milk, and a generous portion of vanilla yogurt.  If it needs a little sweetening, I add some honey.  I throw in a handful of ice and blend it up real good, and in the time it would have taken to nuke a frozen sausage biscuit, I have a smoothie to go.

My smoothie approach is not for everyone.  For those who prefer the guidance of a recipe, here are a few that sound yummy.

Fruit Smoothie (from the book Bone Appetit by the Georgia Osteoporosis Initiative)

2 oz. frozen blueberries
2 oz. frozen strawberries
2 oz. frozen raspberries
1 cup yogurt
2 TBS nonfat dry milk
½ cup milk
½ cup calcium-fortified orange juice

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.  You can add ice if desired.

Yields 2 servings


Groovy Smoothie (from the book Bone Appetit by the Georgia Osteoporosis Initiative)

2 small ripe bananas cut into chunks
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup vanilla yogurt
¾ cup milk

Combine in a blender and process until smooth.

Yields 2 servings


Strawberry-Orange Smoothie (from Betty Crocker)

2 cups vanilla yogurt
1 (10 oz.) bag frozen strawberries
¼ cup calcium-fortified orange juice
1 TBS honey

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

Yields 3 servings


Karla Jacobs is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women.  She lives in Marietta with her husband, two kids, a dog, and some fish.

Buyers of Trafficked Children are Unmasked

You have seen the numbers.  No matter which organization is publishing the statistics, Georgia is always listed in the top 5 places in the United States for sex trafficking, particularly Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST).

There are many reasons for this.  Our airport, Hartsfield-Jackson, is the busiest in the world.  Atlanta sits at the intersection of three major interstate arteries—I-75, I-85, and I-20.  We have a thriving sports and convention business.  Each of these on its own is a magnet for sex trafficking, but put them all together, and you have a stronghold for the commercial sex trade.

Sex trafficking is a booming business.  Estimates by The Urban Institute put the Atlanta market size at around $290 million per year with pimps bringing in an average of $33,000 per week.

Georgia’s Attorney General Sam Olens and Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan are working to put a huge dent in this market by not only going after the people who sell women and girls but also the men who purchase their services.  They have worked closely with the Georgia General Assembly to strengthen the laws, and we have seen some great progress made in the past few years.

Attorney General Olens also began a statewide awareness campaign three years ago, called Georgia’s Not Buying It.  The public service announcement featured local media and sports figures declaring that Georgia will find and prosecute those who are buying our women and children.  It was featured on television and online.  The initiative was very successful, and other states have implemented the program.

Georgia is again leading the way toward eradicating human trafficking with a new nationwide campaign called Unmasked.  This PSA shows DMST buyers trying to hide their faces with masks.  The buyers cannot hide behind their anonymity because they will be unmasked in the end.  The piece then declares, “We know who you are.”

I have been working on human trafficking issues since I joined the Commission on Women four years ago.  There are times when the task of ending trafficking seems daunting and the suffering of the victims so devastating.  It is heartening to see our top law enforcement officers invested in the solution and ensuring that those who are driving the demand for trafficking victims are punished severely.

Partners in the Unmasked campaign include the Attorney General, Street Grace, BBDO Atlanta, and The Justice Network.  You can see the press release announcing the campaign here.

Not Buying It | Unmasked (:60 PSA) from Emily C. P. Owens on Vimeo.


Karla Jacobs is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Statewide Human Trafficking Taskforce.  She lives in Marietta with her husband, two kids, a dog, and some fish.

The Unholy Tour of Atlanta: An Eyewitness Account

The Georgia Commission on Women has been involved in the issue of human trafficking for many years, so when Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols’s office asked us to assist with his “Unholy Tour of Atlanta,” we jumped at the chance to be involved.  For the past three years, Commissioner Echols has hosted a bus tour for legislators and advocates through the parts of the city that are most notorious for human trafficking.  Participants get to see firsthand the types of environments that breed trafficking activity, and local advocates and law enforcement officers tell the stories of the victims they help.

Kasey McClure of 4Sarah

Kasey McClure of 4Sarah

Kasey McClure, founder of the rescue group 4Sarah, leads the tour.  Kasey, a former Gold Club dancer, felt the call to help other women get out of “the life” after she became pregnant with her first child.  4Sarah, which is named after Kasey’s daughter, is an outreach ministry that works inside Atlanta strip clubs to help women and girls transition out of the sex industry.  They offer safe housing for women and their children to escape pimps, and they coordinate intervention programs to get women the help they need to begin a new life.  The 4Sarah scholarship program funds GED courses and higher training so they can find a job.

Kasey was the perfect tour guide, and along with law enforcement officers from DeKalb County and Conyers, she put faces and stories to the dry statistics that shape public policy.

Around 5:30 pm on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 the Samson Trailways bus pulled up outside the Coverdell Legislative Office Building.  Once on board, our first stop was the Greyhound bus station about six blocks from the Capitol.  The bus station is often the first stop for girls and women who find themselves trapped in human trafficking.  Some who step off the bus here are runaways.  Some have been lured here by traffickers, and some are just looking for a fresh start and a new life in the ATL.

That new life is not always what the girls may have imagined.  Magic City Gentleman’s Club, a hip-hop mecca and popular location to shoot rap videos, is right across the street.  Kasey told us the bus station is often a pipeline directly into the club.  The women get off the bus with little money in their pockets and find themselves in the sex industry almost immediately.

Sgt. Torrey Kennedy

Sgt. Torrey Kennedy

DeKalb Police Sergeants Torrey Kennedy and Hubert Brannon took the microphone and talked to us about how technology has changed sex trafficking in recent years.  There are still streetwalkers, but the majority of prostitution solicitation is taking place online.  Craigslist knockoffs that specialize in adult entertainment have sprouted up.  Although they claim not to allow ads for illegal activity, those ads are there nonetheless, and they are prolific.

In fact, a teenager was rescued from sex traffickers as a direct result of last year’s Unholy Tour by using one of these websites.  The girl’s grandmother saw the news segment about the tour on WSB-TV and contacted 4Sarah for help in locating her missing granddaughter.  The rescue group got a picture of the girl and began combing the online ads.  They found her listed on a website called Backpage in a matter of minutes.  The girl’s ad said she was 22 years old, but really, she was just 14.  Authorities were able to rescue her and reunite her with her family.

Our next stop was a quarter mile long dead end street in Decatur off Candler Road near I-20.  On the right, we passed a rundown hotel with five or six DeKalb County police cars in the parking lot.  A few hours earlier, DeKalb Police served a warrant for narcotics at the hotel.  All the buildings around us were shabby, and it was clear the neighborhood had seen better days.  Across the street was a $25 per night hotel that was notorious for attracting traffickers.  Picture the seediest hotel you can think of, and you will have the idea.  Sen. Renee Unterman told us that when they first came on the tour to this area three years ago, the hotel did not even have doors on the rooms.  In front of the hotel parking lot was a sidewalk memorial.  It was a white cross surrounded by a pile of teddy bears and stuffed animals.  It was a big pile, probably 50-60 toys.  The officers said it was for a recent shooting victim.

UT Narcotics Bust edit webThe street ended in an apartment complex.  As the bus was turning around, there was a group of children playing in the road.  They were no older than elementary school-age kids, and a couple were probably younger than that.  They were riding bikes, skipping and jumping, just being kids.  They were less than 100 yards away from where the drug bust had gone down.

I sat in my seat just shocked that on this street, that was less than 300 yards long—three football fields—we saw the scene of a narcotics bust, a seedy hotel known for human trafficking, a memorial to a shooting victim, and children playing.

A question came from the back of the bus asking what happens to the girls when they get pregnant.  The police officer explained that the pimps want their girls to get pregnant, often forcing the girls to have unprotected sex with themselves or others.  Pregnant girls are worth more because some johns will pay top dollar for a date with them.  Once the babies are born, the pimps use the children as another way to control the girls and keep them in prostitution.  They threaten to take away the children or hurt them if the moms do not obey.

Kasey told us about a girl they had rescued who was four months pregnant and had a six month old baby.  Her pimp had forced her to work less than two weeks after giving birth.  Just wrap your brain around that for a minute.

UT Hotel edit webWe made our way back toward Atlanta.  It was dark by now.  As we approached a streetlight on Glenwood Road, Kasey noticed a woman who looked like a streetwalker.  She was crossing toward our side of the street, so the bus pulled over into a parking lot beside a convenience store.  Kasey and 4Sarah Intervention Coordinator Ann Bailey got off the bus and gave the woman a “Rescue Bag.”  They keep a supply of these bags filled with hygiene items, toiletries, and a pamphlet of information on where to go for help so that they have them available any time they spot a woman who might need one.

The exchange was very quick.  If you did not know it was going on, you would have missed it.  Kasey told us that the woman’s pimp was likely close by in a car keeping an eye on her.  She said the smell of alcohol was rolling off the woman, which is not unusual.  We learned drink, or something stronger, is what gets these girls through the night.  She also pointed out other signs that trafficking was going on in the area—three guys were loitering at the corner of the convenience store keeping a look out, and cars were aimlessly cruising around.

After the exchange, Ann talked to us about what happens when they get a call to the hotline and need to get a girl out.  When someone works up the nerve to call in, she has to be taken from her environment immediately, leaving with very few, if any, possessions.  At best, she might be able to throw a few things in a garbage bag and go.  Ann shared about a woman who literally left with nothing when she was rescued from her pimp.  They took her shopping and got her some clothes, but the woman was most grateful for having new, clean underwear.  Think about that.  Think about being in a place in life where new, clean underwear makes an impact on you and how you feel about yourself.

Commissioner Tim Echols

Commissioner Tim Echols

Once out, 4Sarah takes the women and children to a safe house and begins the work of getting them into the needed programs.  Eight of every ten women they rescue are addicted to something, most often meth, and before a program will be useful to them, the women have to go through detox.  Rehab facilities have a limited number of beds, especially the facilities that are free.  This means sometimes they have to resort to using the emergency room to begin the detox process.  The hospital can hold the women for 48 hours, and if they are lucky, the women can get into a mental health facility for 7-10 days. Sometimes that is all they have—less than two weeks to get clean.

Conyers Police Department Captain Jackie Dunn spent some time talking to us about how human trafficking has come to the bedroom community of Conyers.  We think of prostitution and red light districts as a big city problem.  The Hollywood image of streetwalkers in micro miniskirts and pimps in outrageous hats is nowhere near reality.  This is not Pretty Woman.  Prostitution now looks like a Craigslist inspired website where you order a girl like you order a pizza.  Conyers now has undercover police officers working vice just like their big city counterparts as well as agents posing as teenage girls working inside internet chat rooms to fight the demand side of trafficking.

We visited one of the large truck stops in the city toward the end of the tour.  I have no idea where.  By this point, I was feeling a little shell-shocked.  Row after row of sleeper cab 18-wheelers filled the parking lot.  According to Kasey, truck stops are a high traffic area for prostitution.  Lot lizards, as the truckers call prostitutes, roam the parking lot looking for business.

Sen. Renee Unterman

Sen. Renee Unterman

Senator Renee Unterman, a key sponsor of human trafficking legislation, spoke about the evolution of human trafficking laws in Georgia.  It has been a challenge to enact legislation that covers everything it needs to cover, and much of the current effort is focused on domestic minor sex trafficking.  Many issues at the heart of human trafficking drive demand and exploit victims.  Poverty, substance abuse, dysfunctional families, and inadequate education all leave women vulnerable to predatory traffickers.  Opportunists, like the internet advertising websites, make exploiting women even easier.

One of my takeaways from the tour is the evil that human beings will do to other human beings does not seem to have any bounds.    There are families and traffickers out there who are dealing in developmentally disabled children.  These children make perfect victims—they are easy to control, and many do not even realize the adults are exploiting them.  Thankfully, legislation is working its way through the General Assembly right now to protect these children.

Hearing how new information is constantly popping up on traffickers and victims, my friend leaned up between the seats and whispered, “This is like playing Whack-A-Mole with the devil.”  I could not have said it better myself.

As the bus pulled back up to the Capitol around 7:30 pm or so, I felt completely wrung out, and when the lights on the bus came back on, I could tell I was not alone.  There were moments on the tour when I did not know whether to cry or throw up.  It was quiet as we filed off the bus back onto the sidewalk.

At the end of the night, I drove into my nice, middle class neighborhood in the suburbs.  It was well after dark, and some of my neighbors were still out walking their dogs or exercising.  It was quiet, no police cars, no loitering men, no strange cars prowling around.

I pulled into my garage and walked into a home where I am loved and cherished.  My kids were squeaky clean from the shower and finishing up the last bit of homework.  My husband was sitting on the sofa catching up on work emails.  My dog greeted me at the door with her tail furiously wagging.  I was happy and safe and at home with my people.

Later, I tucked the kids in bed, snuggled with them while they told me the highlights of their day, and kissed them goodnight.  Then I sat in my room and finally cried.  I cried for the women who are not cherished, who do not live in homes where they are loved and valued.  I cried for the women whose children are conceived in violence and then used against them as chains to keep them in bondage.  I cried for the women whose neighborhoods are so violent and dangerous that walking out their front door puts them at risk for assault or death.

Then I vowed to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

There are many ways you can get involved in helping human trafficking victims.  You can learn about human trafficking and its impact in Georgia by visiting frontline organizations like Street Grace, Georgia Cares, Wellspring Living, and 4Sarah.  Find out what projects they have going on, and sign up to help.

As always, I ask you to vote Safe Harbor Yes on the November ballot.  This constitutional amendment will create a fund for providing services to children ensnared in human trafficking so they will have access to the help they need.

Together we can #EndIt.


UT Karla Julianna Renee edit web



Karla Jacobs is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force.  She lives in Marietta with her husband, two kids, a dog, and some fish.

WASP Make History in World War II

This is not a time when women should be patient.  We are in a war, and we need to fight it with all of our ability and every weapon possible.  Women pilots, in this particular case, are a weapon waiting to be used.  – Eleanor Roosevelt, 1942


The WASP Emblem U.S. Army Air Forces/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The WASP Emblem
U.S. Army Air Forces/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

I just finished the best book.  It was “The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion,” by one of my favorite authors, Fannie Flagg.  As always, Ms. Flagg tells her story with the flair for the dramatic that you expect from a southern storyteller, but she also works in a mighty dose of poignant self-discovery that tugs at your heartstrings while she is at it.  The book is laugh-out-loud funny too.

“The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion” weaves in two story lines, one in the present and one in the past, that circle around each other until they meet up at the end in a twist.  When we meet Mrs. Sookie Poole, the modern day heroine of the story, she has just married off her last of three daughters—three weddings over the span of a year (wrap your brain around that)–and is looking forward to putting up her feet and enjoying herself for a spell.  Her most pressing worry now is how to keep the blue jays from emptying her bird feeders before the little birds can get their share.

Sookie gets to rest for half a minute before her world turns upside down.  The arrival of a registered letter containing documents from her past uncovers a family secret that sends her on a quest to find out who she really is.

Growing up in the shadow of her larger-than-life domineering mother leaves Sookie feeling ordinary and boring.  Lenore Simmons Krackenberry was a great beauty in her youth and never recovered from it.  Winged Victory, as her family calls her, is the chairman of every club she belongs to and the center of attention wherever she goes.  She is deeply devoted to the Simmons family honor and its Frances I silver that she claims was buried on the family property to protect it from the Yankees during the war.   Everyone in town thinks Lenore is a hoot, but she always makes Sookie feel like she never measures up to her mother’s expectations.

Meanwhile, in early 20th century Pulaski, Wisconsin, a young Polish family turns convention on its ear.  The Jurdabralinski clan is a hard working family living the American dream.  Stanislaw Jurdabralinski emigrates from Poland, marries a pretty girl, and with her raises a family of four girls and a boy.  Together they open and run a successful Phillips 66 filling station in town.  Fritzi, the oldest daughter and free spirit of the bunch, joins a flying circus and in turn teaches her siblings how to fly planes.

World War II calls away their brother, Wink, and the girls soon find themselves running the filling station on their own.  They all know their way around an engine, and with cute uniforms and roller skates they turn a trip to the filling station into an event.  The station is wildly popular, and the girls keep it running until wartime gas rationing takes its toll on their customers.

Fritzi gets restless, and when the opportunity arises to become a pilot with the Women Air Service Pilots, known as WASP, she packs her bags and heads to Texas.  Two of her sisters later join her in the program.

As Sookie connects with her past, she finds the courage to step out of her mother’s shadow and become her own person.

WASP Elizabeth L. Gardner of Rockford, IL at Harlingen Army Air Field Dept. of the Air Force/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

WASP Elizabeth L. Gardner of Rockford, IL at Harlingen Army Air Field
Dept. of the Air Force/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

I love all kinds of books, but I especially love books that capture a moment in history.  In the same way that women flocked to the factories during WWII to free up male workers for the military, female pilots joined WASP beginning in 1942 to ferry planes from factories to deployment points across the U.S.  This freed up their male counterparts for combat.  They even towed targets during training exercises.  With live ammunition.

Nancy Harkness Love and Jackie Cochran, leaders of the WASP, had hoped that the government would militarize the program granting participants more equality in pay and reimbursement of expenses.  This would also make them eligible to claim veteran status once the war was over.  They came close to reaching their goal in 1944 when General Henry H. Arnold, who was the commanding officer of the program, planned to commission the women pilots as Second Lieutenants in the Army Air Force.

The media and Congress vigorously opposed the plan.  By 1944, the German Air Force had been crippled, and in response, the U.S. scaled back its pilot training programs.  The male flight instructors suddenly found themselves at risk of being drafted into the Army ground forces, and they began a letter writing campaign to Congress and newspapers across the country lobbying for the jobs the WASP pilots held.  Once public opinion shifted against the program—the pilots successfully created the perception that the women were no longer freeing up men for combat but instead taking jobs that should be held by men—the program was shut down in December 1944.

The slightly more than 1,100 women in the WASP program ferried over 50 percent of the combat aircraft within the U.S. during the war years.  Thirty-eight of their pilots lost their lives in training and on missions.  After the war, the WASP records were classified and sealed from the public for more than 30 years, and their contribution to the war effort was forgotten.

Then in the 1970’s, the Air Force announced that it would allow women into its pilot training program.  Of course, there was a lot of noise about this being a great first for women, which, as you can imagine, did not sit well with the women who were truly the first.  The WASP rose up and demanded recognition for their service, and in 1977, they got it.  Jimmy Carter signed a law granting former WASP pilots veteran’s status along with limited benefits.  The awards due to them came in the form of WWII Victory Medals and American Theater Campaign Medals in 1984 and Congressional Gold Medals in 2009.

These women were truly pioneers.  Sally Ride makes a cameo appearance in the book, and the arc of history comes full circle.  WASP pilots broke down barriers.  They proved that women could fly the big military planes every bit as well, and sometimes better, than the men could.  They had to be better at their jobs with character above reproach to prove they belong there, and like the women in the factories, they were asked to go back home to their traditional roles when the war was over.  Many did, but really, they did not.

There is a song from WWI that asks “How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm, now that they’ve seen Paree?”  The women pilots of the WASP program proved that they were equal to task of flying some of the most difficult aircraft around.  Once that genie was out of the bottle, she was not going back in.  They opened the door a crack, and the women who followed burst right through.

To learn more about the WASP program, NPR has a good article on the program as well as the Air Force Historical Support Division.  If you really want to dive in to what it was like to be a WASP, read Fannie Flagg’s book.  I highly recommend it.

Four WASP pilots leaving their B-17 Flying Fortress the Pistol Packin' Mama at Lockbourne AAF, Ohio. L-R Frances Green, Margaret (Peg) Kirchner, Ann Waldner, Blanche Osborn U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Four WASP pilots leaving their B-17 Flying Fortress the Pistol Packin’ Mama at Lockbourne AAF, Ohio.
L-R Frances Green, Margaret (Peg) Kirchner, Ann Waldner, Blanche Osborn
U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain



Karla Jacobs is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women.  She lives in Marietta with her husband, two kids, a dog, and assorted fish.  She has rarely met a book she did not like.


Provide Safe Harbor For DMST Victims By Voting Yes in November

Ballot initiative Safe Harbor Yes is vitally important for getting victims the help they need.


A favorite annual event that I attend as part of the Georgia Commission on Women is DMST Lobby Day at the State Capitol.  Lobby Day is hosted each February by Street Grace, Georgia Cares, and Wellspring Living, organizations that are on the front line in getting Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) victims the help they need.  The day always starts with a press conference in The Historic Freight Depot right down the street from the Capitol before we head up to the Gold Dome to deliver messages to our state senators and representatives.  Purple scarves show our solidarity and stand out in the sea of business suits in the halls of the Capitol.  You really cannot miss us.

Advocates Michelle Nelson and Tiney Ray at DMST Lobby Day 2016

Advocates Michelle Nelson and Tiney Ray at DMST Lobby Day 2016

Energy and enthusiasm permeate the place as 500 or so men and women take their seats.  This is a dedicated bunch of advocates, and their hard work has paid off mightily over the past few years.  Last year was particularly exciting because shortly after we got to the Depot, we learned that one of “our” bills was to be debated and voted on that morning in the Senate.  I wrote about that experience here.  It was so cool to look around the Senate gallery at the purple scarves on the advocates as supporting senators in the same scarves stood up to speak in favor of the bill.

This year’s DMST Lobby Day was a celebration of seven great years of success.  We now have organizations in place, like the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force, that bring together law enforcement, advocacy groups, government entities, and others to coordinate the fight against human trafficking and provide aid to victims.  Julianna McConnell and I are privileged to serve on this task force as representatives of the Georgia Commission on Women.  The CJCC Human Trafficking Task Force had only a dozen members in 2009 and now boasts more than 100 members from government, community groups, law enforcement, and more.  Through generous donations, victim aid groups like Wellspring Living have increased the number of beds available for residential services, and outreach efforts have increased the number of victims reported through Georgia Cares.  The safety net is working.

Lobby Day was also a rally to get us ready for our biggest challenge yet—the passage of Safe Harbor Yes in November.  Thanks to the General Assembly, Georgia voters have the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment to create a Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund, which will be on the ballot in November.  Convicted sex traffickers will be required to pay fines into this fund and certain businesses with close ties to the sex trade will pay a tax into the fund as well.  Groups who work closely with DMST victims will have access to these monies to provide the services victims so desperately need.

DMST survivor and advocate Keisha Head speaks at DMST Lobby Day 2016.

DMST survivor and advocate Keisha Head speaks at DMST Lobby Day 2016.

The cost of helping victims is high.  GBI Director Vernon Keenan shared with us last year that it costs an average of $90,000 per child to get them everything they need to get back on their feet.  Traffickers use drugs to ensnare many of their victims, so substance abuse services are needed immediately in many cases.  Many children have had their educations interrupted and need GED classes and job training.  They need extensive counseling to help deal with the trauma they have experienced.  With more than 350 DMST victims reported last year, it is vitally important that Georgia voters approve Safe Harbor Yes when they go to the polls in November.

This ballot initiative is the culmination of years of advocacy by Georgia citizens, churches, and non-profit groups.  Street Grace and other sponsors held the first DMST Lobby Day at the Georgia Capitol in 2009, and fewer than 25 people attended.  Those twenty-five advocates, who were passionate about ending human trafficking in Georgia, launched a movement that has catapulted our state to the forefront of the fight to end human trafficking across the nation.

Seven years later, those numbers have swollen to around 500 advocates who come in person to DMST Lobby Day each year.  They come from all over Georgia—by buses, church vans, and carpool groups.  I saw teenagers, college students, and many retirees walking the halls of the Capitol in their purple scarves this year.  They come to be a part of the legislative process and to show by their numbers that Georgians want human trafficking eradicated in our state.

The successes of the movement to end human trafficking have been a combination of old-fashioned grass roots organizing and dogged determination to get bills passed.  A supporter of DMST Lobby Day from the very beginning, Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) has kept human trafficking on the radars of her fellow legislators, and over the years, a bi-partisan coalition has picked up her message as well.   Last year 206 senators and representatives supported legislation to help victims and punish offenders.

Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) rallies the advocates at Lobby Day 2016.

Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) rallies the advocates at Lobby Day 2016.

State leadership on DMST legislation and enforcement has followed two tracks.  Legislators have worked to strengthen laws against trafficking, increasing penalties and jail time for convicted traffickers and raising the statute of limitation for these crimes.  Attorney General Sam Olens has focused on combatting the demand side of human trafficking going after both buyers and sellers, and his “Georgia’s Not Buying It” initiative and ad campaign have become a template for success that other states are following.  The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is active on the CJCC Task Force and in training law enforcement officers across the state.  Director Keenan is a staunch supporter of victims and works tirelessly each year to keep elected officials informed of what his department is seeing regarding human trafficking in the state.

The leadership has also focused on assisting victims.  A major initiative in helping children caught in DMST has been to ensure that the law treats them as victims of a crime and not as criminals, and all legislation that has come out in the past few years reflects this.  This was a big shift.  Before, DMST victims arrested for prostitution found themselves in the court system instead of treatment facilities, leaving with a criminal record that followed them around for the rest of their lives.  A re-write of the Juvenile Justice Code in 2014 fixed this and sealed the records of juveniles convicted on prostitution charges.

Legislators amended mandated reporter statutes to include child sexual exploitation as a reportable abuse.  In 2013, they passed a law requiring certain businesses—including hotels, transportation hubs, and adult entertainment venues—to post the human trafficking hotline number so victims will know where to get help.  Both of these initiatives resulted in more referrals to aid agencies that assist victims.

The state budget in 2010 included funding for community interventions including the training of law enforcement officers on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC).  Before 2009, less than 15 law enforcement officers were trained in handling CSEC cases.  Now Georgia has more than 7,000 trained law enforcement officers ready to assist human trafficking victims.

Advocates release purple balloons in honor of DMST victims and survivors. Lobby Day 2016

Advocates release purple balloons in honor of DMST victims and survivors. Lobby Day 2016

Last year, 2015, was a watershed year for anti-human trafficking legislation in Georgia.  With the passage of the Safe Harbor/Rachel’s Law, the state increased the penalties for human trafficking.  A big addition to those penalties includes a requirement that convicted traffickers register with the state as sex offenders.  The law also extends protections for victims by allowing them to bring civil charges against their traffickers until they are 25 years old.  The legislature passed a companion bill, Senate Resolution 7, which puts a state constitutional amendment on the November 2016 ballot to create the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund.  This fund will help victims get the medical and counseling services they need to put their lives back together.

All these efforts have brought us to this moment where people across the state have the power to stand up and be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.  Georgia voters have the opportunity to join the General Assembly, Attorney General, GBI Director, and advocates across the state in the campaign to end human trafficking in Georgia.  There are lots of ways you can help us be successful in November.  You can go to Safe Harbor Yes and sign the pledge.  You can become an advocate for DMST victims by sharing information about the ballot initiative on your own social media sites.  You can vote Safe Harbor Yes in November.

Join us in the fight to #EndDMST in Georgia!


Karla Jacobs is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women.  She lives in Marietta with her husband, two kids, a dog, and assorted fish.

Changing of the Guard at the Georgia Commission on Women

I have known many formidable women in my time, but none can hold a candle to the force of nature that is Nellie Dunaway Duke.

Commissioner Nellie Duke

Commissioner Nellie Duke

Governor Deal’s office called me almost four years ago to ask me to consider accepting an appointment to the Georgia Commission on Women.  I asked all the important questions you ask when you get a call from someone wanting you to volunteer your time:  What does the Commission do?  What kind of time commitment are we talking?  (I have learned to double this estimate.) With whom will I be working?

I do not remember the specifics of the answers to the first two questions, but I do remember hearing that Nellie Duke was the chair of the commission and that I would love working with her.  I was encouraged to call her to find out more details, so I did.  That began a friendship I will always cherish.

The first thing Miss Nellie told me was that she was born on International Women’s Day and was about to turn 81 years old.  We chatted it up as if we were old friends catching up with the news instead of complete strangers who were soon to be working together.  She talked my ear off, really, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  We found out that we both played basketball as young women; in fact, she played semi-pro basketball in 1947-48.  I was not quite that good, although I did play my freshman year in college.  When her kids were young, she was knee-deep in all the things I am doing today like PTA, Girl Scout leadership, coaching, and school volunteer work.  It was fun to talk about how things are different and how much they are the same this time around.

Obviously, I accepted the appointment.  I really could not turn it down after talking to Miss Nellie.  She has a knack for making you feel welcome and comfortable.  She came to my swearing-in at the Governor’s Office and immediately pinned me with my nametag.  Next thing I knew, I was attending meetings and finding myself put to work.  That is how she operates.

Serving on the commission has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life, and I am grateful to Governor Deal for giving me this opportunity.  I have had the good fortune to meet the kinds of people who are working on the front lines and dedicating themselves to making the world a better place.  I sit and listen to them talk about the work they do and what motivates them to do it, and I always leave with a full heart, inspired to do more in my own tiny sphere of influence.

Many of these inspiring people are serving beside me on the Georgia Commission on Women.  Led by Miss Nellie over the years, the commission has published a book called, “Women & the Law: A Guide to Women’s Legal Rights in Georgia,” commissioned studies on the status of women in Georgia, led a continuing awareness campaign on the dangers of osteoporosis, created a self-defense course, and worked with community partners to combat Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) in our state.  The stories these women tell of community events, sponsored studies, and meetings with legislators have proven to me that each individual can make a difference.

Nellies Jellies 1Some of my favorite stories, however, come from Miss Nellie, herself.  She tells about trying to teach the other commissioners how to make jelly years ago at Commissioner Bette Rose Bower’s house.  They all got to talking and laughing so much that they forgot about the strawberries simmering on the stove.  The next thing they knew, the pot boiled over with molten strawberries streaming all over the stove and onto the floor.  I think it took Bette Rose hours to get that sticky mess out of her stove.

My most favorite stories are Henry stories.  Miss Nellie’s husband, Henry, was a mainstay of the commission.  He suffered from Alzheimer’s disease the last years of his life, but he went everywhere with Miss Nellie and was at all of our meetings with a big smile and big hugs.  Years ago, a local man who was unhappy with Miss Nellie’s advocacy for women in town woke Henry in the wee hours of the morning with a phone call to tell him he needed to get control of his busybody wife.  Henry thanked the caller for his feedback and asked him when he was planning to go to bed that night.  When the guy told him, Henry thanked him again and said that when he was good and asleep Henry was going to call and tell him how to run his life.  Then he hung up the phone.  Henry died last June, and we all miss him.

Commissioners Nellie Duke and Sharon Baker as "Calendar Girls" promoting osteoporosis awareness.

Commissioners Nellie Duke and Sharon Baker as “Calendar Girls” promoting osteoporosis awareness.

On Saturday, August 15, 2015, the commission met at our favorite lunch spot, Mary Mac’s Tea Room.  It was a called meeting, but in addition to our current members, there were past members and friends of the commission present because Miss Nellie had some big news.  After 21 years, she was stepping down as chair of the commission.

Our meeting was a celebration of the work and dedication of Nellie Duke in advancing the rights of women in Georgia and across the nation.  She has been influential in achieving for us many of the rights we younger folks take for granted.  As people stood to speak, a theme emerged.  People talked about her kindness.  They talked about her work ethic.  They talked about her friendship and mentorship.  They talked about the times she had stepped up to do something selfless for someone else.  Everyone there had been touched by Miss Nellie in some way that they felt made them a better person.  This is her legacy.

On Tuesday, November 17, 2015, we elected our slate of officers for the 2016-2018 term.  Our vice-chair, Julianna McConnell, secretary, Dianne Rogers, and treasurer, Linda McWhorter, are all returning in their positions, but for the first time in 21 years, we have a new chair.  I am excited and humbled to report that I am the one stepping into that position.

I will admit that I am feeling a little overwhelmed but honored that my fellow commissioners believe I can do this job.  You will be hearing often from us in the coming months as we hone our vision and focus our mission for advocating for the women in our state.  Miss Nellie’s hard work ethic and her commitment to service for the women of Georgia are a tall order to live up to, but her inspiration will guide us as we move into this new phase of our work.

In this season when we focus on gratitude, I am thankful for women like Miss Nellie who envisioned a better world for women and fought for it.  I am thankful for the women on our commission who have dedicated themselves to continuing to realize that vision.  And I am thankful for the opportunity to do my part to make Georgia a great place for women to live, work, and raise their families.


Karla Jacobs is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women.  She lives in Marietta with her husband, two kids, a dog, and assorted fish.