“Today, there are over 27 million people being trafficked, more so than at any other time in the history of the world,” says Janelle Lang, owner of Shoppe 561.
After a 25 plus year career as an executive with the Gap, overseeing its North American Third-Party Logistics network, Lang felt that there was a little bit more to life than ensuring deliveries to 2000-odd stores were made on time – no easy feat and certainly one that has her well-prepared for any challenge.
Lang was in search of a cause.
After receiving a master’s degree in Pastoral Counseling in 2011, Lang took to traveling. As part of a group that visited Rwanda, Lang became aware of the evils of the modern slave trade and of human trafficking.
“Hearing how girls have been taken unknowingly, these stories get me so upset, and what I have heard about what happens to these precious girls and women is mind-blowing. It is happening right here in our backyard. How can we not speak up for these girls who have no voice?
“I set up a scholarship fund in partnership with World Help to assist widows to attend a vocational school so they could learn a skill and support their family. Supporting their family meant they would not fall prey or be gullible to traffickers.”
After a trip to Ireland where she spent two weeks focusing on locally-produced artisanal products Lang returned home and founded Shoppe 561 in November of 2013 as a way of empowering local victims of human trafficking based on her traveling education.
“This was the way that I was going to take the passion I had for helping to end modern day slavery and integrate it into the Shoppe.”
Florida ranks third in the nation for human trafficking. Since opening, Shoppe 561 has donated close to $10,000 to Hope House, a faith-based, state-licensed organization providing professional care for minor girls who have been victimized.
Part of Hope House’s rehabilitating program includes teaching life skills and therapy. That includes helping some of the women become working artists.
“Currently I partner with one of the [Hope House] educators working with the girls to get them caught up on their schoolwork,” explains Lang. “She has an ’entrepreneur day’ each week where the girls work on things they believe would be good for Shoppe 561.”
Carrying a wide array of items like baby gifts, custom jewelry, fishing accessories, terry wraps, clothes, ceramics, cards, body care products, Lang now has a roster of about 70 local artisans ranging in age from 9 to some septuagenarians.
“Several young women at the safe house have become artisans,” says Lang. “Empowering [them] with an opportunity to learn new skills and understand aspects of business. They are validated in that what they create is of value. It is a reminder that they are all smarter, stronger and braver than they believe.”
Aside from a one-stop destination for unique products, Shoppe 561 is also a growing community center. It has also partnered with the Palm Beach Public School’s arts education and holds a continuously changing schedule of classes.
“We love to help people find their inner artisan through the classes we offer at the Shoppe. We also delight in hosting girls’ nights out and birthday parties for kids. We especially love creating a space for community, memories and learning.”
Shoppe 561 is located at 319 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach. Call 561-557-7278, or visit shoppe561.com.