Shopping for Hope

human traffickingOn Belvedere Road, in the heart of West Palm Beach, lies a unique little shop that fills your bags with beautiful, hand-crafted items and your soul with so much more – hope.

Shoppe561, founded and managed by Shoppe Keeper Janelle Lang, was created to share the message of hope with the community.
Opening her own store was not an idea that came to Lang overnight, however. It took a lot of faith, a newly-received Master’s degree and some time away from home to realize what God had planned for her life.

Discovering God’s plan
Lang, a GAP employee for more than 25 years, enjoyed her job and made a lucrative salary.

But after leading an all girls’ Bible study group with Palm Beach Atlantic University students, Lang felt a need to seek a master’s degree in pastoral counseling.

I thought it might be important to have it as one of my “tools in my tool belt,” she said.

Toward the end of her program, Lang hoped to attend a class in Rwanda. And while she thought circumstances would prevent her from going, she was selected as one of 600 applicants to participate.
Lang had heard about human trafficking through her church, but it was this visit to Africa where God opened her eyes to the horrors of modern day slavery.

Human trafficking was so prevalent in Rwanda, Lang said, that billboards with pictures of young girls were everywhere. The words read, “Mama, don’t trust that man.”

Desperate mothers, with many mouths to feed, were trusting men who said they were taking their daughter to work “as a servant at a nice house,” Lang recalls.

But it was all a lie, Lang said. And the daughters were never seen again.

Lang knew she had to do something to help these young women.

Before she left to return to the states, she purchased 100 hand bags from the Anglican Vocational School in Rwanda. She asked for donations from her friends upon her return, and the funds she received supported the Vocational School’s scholarship program, which gave women the help they needed to support their families and to keep them from falling prey to human trafficking.

The trip to Rwanda was not the end of Janelle Lang’s story. One year later, she continued to feel a stirring in her soul. “I felt like God was telling me to go away and see what was going to happen next,” she said.

But this time she went to Ireland. And while she was there, waiting to figure out God’s plan for her life, she spent a lot of her time browsing locally hand-crafted shops.

And after her second week there, God’s plan for her became clear. “I thought, I should open my own shop.”

Putting the plan into action
When Lang returned home from Ireland, she shared her idea with her family.

And while they greatly supported her, she knew that giving up her six figure job at GAP would not be as easy.

But God’s plan continued to unfold before Lang’s eyes.

A new boss at GAP was taking over and before she knew it, her job was eliminated. Because of her long time at the company, she received a large severance pay of nine months. Lang felt that this gave her ample time to start putting her store together.

“God just really kept saying, ‘Yep, this is what you’re going to do,’” says Lang.

Lang found a space for her store, started lining up local artisans and started decorating.

And then it happened, Shoppe561 opened in November 2014.

The store’s purpose is to bring hope and inspiration to the community, while at the same time giving a portion of proceeds to organizations supporting young women, locally and abroad, who are caught in the nightmare of human trafficking.

Supporting Hope House Florida (hopehouseflorida.com), an organization rescuing and restoring the lives of minor girls who have been exploited by human trafficking, is particularly important to Lang.

“Modern day slavery is a hidden epidemic in Florida,” Lang says, “We must help bring this to an end.”

The end result brings faith, hope and love
Visitors can feel the love, passion and pride that Janelle Lang takes in her newly-opened store, Shoppe561.

The vintage décor, with the look and feel of Anthropologie, perfectly accents the artisans’ unique creations throughout the store. And the words of faith and hope trickled throughout, leave customers with a feeling of warmth and inspiration.

Hip creations like guitar pick earrings, driftwood frames, “game night in a box,” and lotions created with all natural ingredients, are just some of the items sold at Shoppe561.

“It’s like having all of the greatest creations from Etsy (etsy.com) in one store,” says Shoppe561 employee, Sarah Van Haezebrouck.

There are even unique pint-size creations to purchase, like artisan Lucie Drdova’s hand-painted onesies.

Drdova, from the Czech Republic, who is inspired by the colors and patterns of Lilly Pulitzer, sells fabrics, paintings, canvas bags and onesies in Shoppe561.

Drdova is proud to be supporting the efforts to bring an end to human trafficking, while sharing her talent with others.

“I wanted to sell my art here because I found this as a perfect match,” Drdova says. “I like to show my art and also learn from the others.”

This is what it’s all about for Lang. “We want people to feel like they are a part of something and a part of giving back.”

Shoppe561 is located at 319 Belvedere Road in West Palm Beach and is open Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The store is closed on Sundays.
Looking to display your own talents at Shoppe561? Visit shoppe561.com to fill out an application, or call 561-557-7278 for more information.

Or check out the website for a list of classes being offered for children ages eight and up (or five and older with an adult) or to educate yourself with human trafficking, locally and across the globe.

Chrissie Ferguson is a freelance writer and the director of children’s ministries at the Royal Poinciana Chapel in Palm Beach. She is also the mother of three young boys. Read her mom blog at soundoflittlefeet.blogspot.com.

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