ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The Odis Dolton Good Neighbor Award is presented to one community member each year for exemplifying the spirit of Dolton. He has left the legacy behind of being a community member who will go out of his way to help improve the lives of others. This award honors Dolton and his service to the community of Abilene.

The 2023 Odis Dolton Good Neighbor Award was presented to Stephanie Rocha. Rocha is the Founder and Executive Director for ‘Beyond Trafficking’ in West Texas.

Courtesy of the City of Abilene

‘Beyond Trafficking’ is a non-profit organization that educates the community on human trafficking and assists survivors. Volunteers make sure people know what to look out for and what to do.

Rocha and Mayor Anthony Wiliams have worked together for years. After Williams became mayor, she invited him to attend a forum to discuss human trafficking in Abilene

“I was a bit embarrassed because of things I just didn’t know,” Williams recalled. “Stephanie, the last several years, has led an effort to address this issue in, really more like a ministry.”

Each year before the award is presented, Pam Dalton, Otis Dolton’s widow, learns about the recipient to ensure that the person is the right candidate.

“I told her Stephanies story, her contribution, what she has done. And Pam really wanted you to receive this award. She believes that you exemplify the very things that Otis stood for and that is loving your neighbor, serving your neighbor,” Williams told Rocha.

Rocha shared that she is honored to be a recipient of this award.

“I’m super honored to be here. I knew Otis Dolton very well and he was a man of such integrity and he did so many great things here in our city and so, this is just quite the honor,’ Rocha expressed.

She shared that ‘Beyond Trafficking’ assists human trafficking survivors, but it begins with infrastructure.

“So we have to start with making sure that education and awareness are out there as well,” Rocha explained. “One of the gaps that we noticed here in our area was a housing gap.”

Currently, there is no long-term housing for survivors, but members of ‘Beyond Trafficking’ are working to build a safe house in Abilene to ensure the needs of survivors are being met.

Each year, there are many events to bring awareness. One of the biggest ones is the global wide ‘Walk for Freedom.’

“So our big ‘Walk for Freedom’ is our big awareness event, but we also do other events,” Rocha added. “Tonight, we are doing dream bards with our survivors. Trying to make sure that their goals and their visions are at the forefront of their minds, so that way they can begin their journey right back to freedom.”

Visit ‘Beyond Trafficking’ online to learn more about this organization or the City of Abilene’s Youtube or Facebook page to see the full video.