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Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Two UF students are seeking to end slavery one brushstroke at a time.

Free Dove Market, at freedovemarket.com, is an online art store that sells donated artwork and gives 100 percent of its sales to Love UnVeiled, a ministry that rescues women from slavery and provides long-term care.

Suzy Schrimsher, a 20-year-old family, youth and community sciences junior, and Melissa Dukes, a 20-year-old public relations junior, founded Free Dove in March 2013 and have donated about $1,500 from sales.

The artwork they sell ranges from $10 knitted headbands to $200 canvas paintings and has been submitted by artists of various ages, genders and skill levels. However, most of the pieces contributed have come from UF students, Schrimsher said.

Some UF students are also purchasing the pieces featured on the site, like Ashley Kobza, a 20-year-old public relations junior, who said she likes buying items from Free Dove because human trafficking is an issue close to her heart.

“It’s cool to be able to purchase something that can go on my wall, but also something that’s also going to a mission that I am extremely passionate about,” Kobza said.

Schrimsher and Dukes, who are sisters of Kappa Delta sorority at UF, said they first became passionate about fighting human trafficking after they attended a Christian conference and heard about how prevalent this issue is overseas as well as in the U.S.

“We were both heartbroken about it,” Dukes said. “We knew we wanted to do something, but we didn’t know what we could do that was more permanent and long-lasting, so Suzy came up with the idea of starting a website with art on it.”

Almost all submitted artwork will be sold, and participating artists will be featured in an article on the website. Artists of any background can contribute artwork to the cause by visiting freedovemarket.com, according to information on the website.

Dukes said she and Schrimsher would like to continue Free Dove after college.

“We are just trying to go where the Lord leads us,” Dukes said, “And we hope that’s in the cards for us.”

Schrimsher said she hopes Free Dove can put an end to human trafficking by raising awareness.

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“I hope people realize that slavery is still going on with labor and sex slavery, and that it happens here in the United States,” she said. “It’s not just a foreign issue.”

A version of this story ran on page 5 on 11/12/2013 under the headline "Online art store fights human trafficking"

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