By Marianne Coil
During a 2017 mission trip with her teenage daughter, Kellie Nowacki found poverty-ridden Cambodia to be “intriguing, exciting, smelly.”
And full of human trafficking.
The volume of Western tourists who go there to buy sex was, “the hardest thing to wrap my brain around,” Nowacki said.
Nowacki said she went on the trip only because she didn’t want her daughter Ellie to go without a parent. An aspiring missionary, Ellie was eager to travel with a group sponsored by the family’s church, The Creek, on South Franklin Road in Indianapolis.
Ellie is the oldest of Nowacki’s five children. Kellie and her husband, Joel, live with their family in Perry Township near the county line.
“I didn’t even know where Cambodia was,” Nowacki said. When they looked for it on a map in preparation for the journey, she said, “You gotta be kidding me.”
The Creek supports Rapha House, a rescue program for trafficked women and children in Cambodia. During the trip, the Nowackis visited unmarked Rapha House campuses. At one of these, they met a 7-year-old girl who’d been rescued from a brothel where she’d been a sex slave.
Meeting these victims changed Nowacki forever. “It’s like the depravity of humanity is embedded in your soul. You realize how sick humans can be.”
An inspired expansion
So influenced by what she learned in Cambodia, Nowacki launched an expansion of her online jewelry business, the lemondime, to create employment for women rescued from sex trafficking in central Indiana. The workers will make a new line of jewelry, “Beloved,” branded with a lowercase letter b on the jewelry.
To pay for the expansion, a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter.com is in progress, and donors have until 6:53 a.m. on April 13 to contribute. The pledge campaign is all or nothing, so if donations fall short of the $25,000 goal, the net gain will be zero.
The decision to commit to fighting sex trafficking came as Nowacki struggled to resolve the emotional turmoil she experienced after visiting Cambodia. “I was a mess. I went through a deep depression for four months,” she said. “I looked around my home and none of the things had any meaning anymore.”
She had to acknowledge the poverty and oppression she’d seen. When she and her daughter came home, “We didn’t even like Americans,” she said.
Gaining a new sense of humility, she could give up the need to be in control. “I’d always held really tightly to what I created.”
But to make a difference in confronting a social ill like human trafficking, she had to accept, “I cannot do this on my own.”
Finally, she began unraveling mysteries from her own childhood – incidents of molestation by a neighbor, and rape and abuse by a schoolmate and a boyfriend. “Our generation doesn’t talk about these things … but we need to talk about them,” she said.
An artist by training, she started the lemondime six years ago, and the demand for her inspirational jewelry escalated so that she had to refuse many wholesale orders. In addition to on-line sales, she distributes wholesale to boutiques in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Arkansas.
The new employees will come first from a group called Purchased, which supports underage girls caught up in sex trafficking. To work for the lemondime, they’ll receive mentoring and go through job training by the state of Indiana.
Any slots not filled by girls from Purchased will go to women ages 18 and over, sponsored by Grit into Grace, another victim-support organization located in Fishers, Indiana, Nowacki said.
Fundraising for the lemondime
A fundraising campaign for the lemondime is currently in progress. Donors have until 6:53 a.m. on April 13 to contribute. To donate, please go to kickstarter.com/projects/thelemondime/beloved-by-the-lemondime.
5 Questions with Kellie Nowacki
In what city and state were you born? Where did you spend your K-12 years with your family? When did you graduate from high school and where were you living at the time?
I was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. I moved to Missoula, Montana, when I was little, until we moved to Rice Lake, Wisconsin, when I was in third grade. I graduated from Rice Lake High School in 1993.
Which university did you graduate from and what did you major in?
I attended the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, majoring in Fine Arts for three years, and I finished my degree (Fine Arts with a concentration in Industrial Design) from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Menomonie.
Describe a typical morning at your house starting from the time you awaken through noon.
A typical morning in my home is waking up around 7 a.m., prayer, working from my phone for a bit, making fresh celery juice, coffee with my husband; kids start to wake up one by one (we homeschool our five children); I help with breakfast; once the kids get their days going and are in a good place, I head out to my studio to get some work done.
What are your children’s names, and do any of the children pursue an artistic endeavor?
Amara (age 8), skilled in makeup application and slime creation; Ezra (age 13); Avery (age 15) making carrot cakes and cheesecakes for Avery Bakes on Facebook; Kole (age 17), pursuing his own web design business; Ellie (age 18), singer/songwriter.
What is your husband’s name? What is his vocation? Briefly recall how and when you met him.
My husband is Joel Nowacki. He owns Track Seven DJ, for which he and five other DJs work. We met when his band (he was the drummer) was traveling from Indianapolis to Minneapolis. They came through my college town in northern Wisconsin and played at the coffeehouse in the basement of my church. I was in a serious relationship at the time, but I knew within minutes of meeting Joel that I was supposed to marry him. We’ll be married 20 years this summer.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org also,
Kickstarter page: kickstarter.com/projects/thelemondime/beloved-by-the-lemondime