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United Way of Lancaster County


Anti-trafficking nonprofit North Star Initiative takes over Berks County counterpart F.R.E.E.

A faith-based Lancaster County nonprofit that fights sex trafficking has absorbed a Berks County nonprofit devoted to the same mission, the two organizations announced.

Melinda Clark

North Star Initiative, headquartered in Lititz, and F.R.E.E. (Freedom & Restoration for Everyone Enslaved), based in Reading, said they “share the same deep commitment to end sex trafficking” and have been partnering in various ways over the past few years.

By combining into a single nonprofit, they said, they can streamline administrative overhead and reduce duplicative services, allowing more resources to go directly toward programming.

“Joining our programs ensures that survivors will be served with excellence, and that is ultimately our highest priority,” North Star Executive Director Melinda Clark said in a statement.

Under an agreement approved by both nonprofits’ boards, F.R.E.E. dissolved as of June 30 and North Star Institute took over its operations.

Andrea McHenry

That includes the Refuge Home, F.R.E.E.’s safe house and care center in Reading. It opened last September and can accommodate up to four residents.

North Star Initiative operates a similar facility, The Harbor, which opened in 2017 and can house up to seven people.

North Star now manages both sites, under Clinical Program Director Celeste Hudson. Both sites offer counseling, life skills training and other wraparound services to help trafficking survivors heal and return to the community.

F.R.E.E.’s former executive director, Andrea McHenry, is now North Star’s director of outreach and advocacy.

“I could not be more excited,” McHenry said in a statement, characterizing F.R.E.E.’s merger into North Star as “the next right step” for its mission.

North Star Initiative and F.R.E.E. were both founded in 2010.