At a round table discussion recently in Missoula, Governor Gianforte promised to open doors for the Lifeguard Group to help them expand their rescue services for the victims of human trafficking.

The Governor came through, big time, said Lifeguard Group Director Lowell Hochhalter.

“The governor said at that roundtable that ‘I'm going to make some connections’, and then he actually followed through with that, and to see it to the end to build that partnership with Town Pump to get the hotline numbers in their stores across the state and then working with the Montana Department of Transportation to get messages in the rest areas,” said Hochhalter. “But then, to hear from Town Pump that they are granting us $30,000, that just makes for a good start to a week.”

Hochhalter said the funds will go to help staff the Lifeguard Group’s 24/7 hotline for victims.

“The hotline has been such an amazing tool across the state that as we look at moving forward even into this year and setting our budget, we'd like to set up a three quarter time person to administrate that hotline,” he said. “So I'm thinking that we're looking in that direction with those funds.”

Hochhalter said with the added support, the Lifeguard Group’s efforts will be much more widely seen and more victims will be rescued from the life of being a human trafficking victim.

“The (hotline) number so far has really just been word of mouth and through social media,” he said. “So we know that in the last year we had 86 calls on that number. And now with the posters going up and awareness getting more and more out there that just to be able to know that that avenue for victims or people that are witnessing that firsthand, that they have somewhere to call. That's just huge.”

Hochhalter was asked about more ambitious future plans for the Lifeguard Group.

“We have a dream to build a home that could that could take up to 20 kids that have been rescued and give them the therapy and the care and the love that that they deserve and should have and need if they're going to become the people that they always dreamed that they could be,” he said. “Right now in the United States we know that there are approximately 600,000 to 700,000 kids (child trafficking victims), which is heartbreaking.”

The hotline number is 1-833-406-STOP (7867).


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