Local Nonprofit Continues Fundraising After Shutting Down NorCal Home for Sex Trafficking Victims

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ELK GROVE -- Celebrating 11 years and its mission of rescuing young women from a life of being sold for sex.

Sunday night an Elk Grove church filled with music, prayer and people showing support and donating money to Courage Worldwide.

“So we stop, we remember, we celebrate, we share the victories, we share the struggles,” said Courage Worldwide Community Relations Director Stephanie Midthun.

It comes days after the local nonprofit announced its Northern California home has been closed since June.

"It’s like super religious and coercive,” said a woman at the event who didn’t want to reveal her face or name.

The woman says she paid $180 for training but was never used as a volunteer.

"Every time I’ve gone to an event ... always asking for money. I don’t think throwing money at an issue is going to fix it,” she said.

She questions where all the donations are going, especially now that Courage House NorCal is closed.

"Our staff isn’t just about the two homes, we have corporate staff, also that our online training is coming, none of that is stopped,” said Jenny Williamson, CEO and Founder of Courage Worldwide.

Williamson insists the money is going toward other programs, expansion and their home in Tanzania, Africa, which houses four formerly sex trafficked girls.

FOX40 asked Williamson to further explain where all the money is going.

“Well that’s why we have audits,” replied Williamson.

Williamson told her supporters the nonprofit is taking a break to cope with staff burnout and to fight the slew of citations the nonprofit has received from the state.

The organization received over a dozen citations for things like failing to allow Courage House girls to use their own cell phones, practice their own religion and opt out of activities.

"We’ve retained an attorney to help us fight that fight,. We're appealing all that, it's hundreds of man hours,” Williamson said.

"I was terminated for essentially losing my sparkle,” said Former Courage House Employee Lydia Leanos.

Leanos worked for Courage House when it opened in 2011. She says she was fired in 2014.
She describes the environment as "toxic."

"There was a lack of support for staff working in the home that made it a really unhealthy and toxic place to work as a staff member,” said Leanos.

As Williamson continues to host events, fundraisers and pursue her dreams of expansion, Leanos is urging potential donors to think twice before opening their wallets.

FOX40 asked if she questions what Courage Worldwide is doing with all of its donations.

“Yes, and I think everyone else should too,” replied Leanos.

The local charity that’s been slapped with citations, losing donors and receiving backlash still vows to fight the state and overcome its challenges so Courage House can reopen in Northern California by the end of the year.

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