A Brookfield bank office employee was recognized by Fortune Magazine last week as a hero.
Debbie Lassiter, a software specialist for U.S. Bank, has been named one of the magazine's "Heroes of the 500."
"Heroes of the 500" is a list based off of the publication's annual Fortune 500 list, which lists the top 500 closely held and public corporations in the United States according to gross revenue.
While the Fortune 500 is about numbers, "Heroes of the 500" is all about people.
Lassiter herself was honored for her work through the Convergence Resource Center, a nonprofit community service organization she co-founded in 2004.
"The CRC was actually started to help women that needed a place to restart," Lassiter said. "They're all given different levels of assistance.
The initial purpose of the center was to provide assistance for incarcerated women who might find difficulty in rebuilding their lives.
"In working with women that were incarcerated, I found that many of them reoffended and went back because they didn't have a good support system when they got out," Lassiter said. "They expressed fear in being released from incarceration."
The Convergence Resource Center has recently expanded its blanket to cover more women in need in the Milwaukee area.
"About four years ago, I started seeing intersections between women in prostitution and sex trafficking and women forced into prostitution," she said. "It was different than what we'd seen before. There didn't seem to be any resources for those women."
Lassiter noted that young women forced into sex trafficking can find themselves unable to function in society if released.
"Most of them are put into trafficking at such a young age that they don't get an education," she said. "They don't understand business etiquette, how to behave in a workplace or how to get a job. We help them to make good decisions and start down a different path in life."
Among the specific services provided by the Convergence Resource Center are parenting, providing school supplies, job training, day-to-day tasks and transportation. Women can also find help with substance abuse.
Lassiter believes sex trafficking is a serious issue that lacks awareness.
"I think that there should definitely be more light shed on it," she said. "It's a very widespread issue, not just in Wisconsin, but in our country," Lassiter said. "We need people to know how serious it is."
The Convergence Resource Center currently serves around 100 women, many of whom also serve as the volunteers who help the organization to run.
"We don't have any employees, it's all volunteers," Lassiter said. "Many of the women that come here for help stick around and start volunteering. Every survivor that we meet has a desire to help other survivors."
Lassiter said the outpouring of support from her company has been overwhelming since being named to the "Heroes of the 500."
"It's been a real highlight in my life; not so much because of the recognition for me, but because people have been so positive and encouraging about our cause," Lassiter said.
Amy Frantti of public relations at U.S. Bank noted the sense of pride the company feels over Lassiter being honored.
"She is getting so much positive feedback from people," Frantti said. "People are so happy for her and excited to read about her recognition. It's not all about her being recognized, though; they love reading about what she's done."
The Convergence Resource Center is located at 3975 N. 68th St. in Milwaukee. For more information, call (414) 393-1325 or visit ConvergenceResource.org.
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