Antonia “Neet” Childs, 30, owns and operates Neet’s Sweets, a bakery located near Area 15 in Missiongathering church. If you think Childs just sells baked treats for corporate events and individual parties, you’re missing her main mission in life: To help victims of domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) follow their dreams.
Childs’ motivation comes from her own experience with being exploited in Charlotte at the age of 16. With the help of a stranger, she was able to get out of that life and realize the dream of owning a bakery. Childs made the transition from victim to survivor to survivor-leader.
“The bakery is a representation of me,” she said. “I can do anything and anything is possible. I can follow my passion. Not only was that the foundation to try to support other girls, but I wanted them to be able to follow their dreams as well, because not everyone wants to bake.”
Childs did not set out to help girls who were involved in commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. She was really trying to keep herself safe from it. When she started baking in her one-bedroom apartment, she gave her cakes away to community centers and shelters. She also taught cake decorating to the young girls.
Childs soon learned that some of the girls she met at the outreach programs were being exploited by sex traffickers. One sixth-grade girl, in particular, made Childs think about sharing her own story.
“I had no intention of really talking about my story,” Childs said. “I was really trying to stay out of my situation. I did not go into detail with girls about that, but later on I knew that could not sit with me. I felt an accountability at that point to try to say something to bring attention to an issue that people did not want to talk about.”
Then the bakery became more than just a bakery. In 2013, Childs opened her non-profit organization Market Your Mind, which is partially funded through proceeds from Neet’s Sweets.
MYM offers services and programs that build a support network for young girls, ages 13-17, who have been exploited or are at risk for exploitation because of their situation. MYM partners with the foster care system, juvenile court judges and probation officers for referrals. They provide the young girls a safe place to go, mentorship, advocacy and life skills workshops.
More than 200 girls have been helped. Success looks different for each girl. It could mean finishing a GED, staying in one place, going back to their family, finding a job or starting college. For the MYM staff, it is important to find out what the young girls want to do with their lives.
“That is something we don’t do, we don’t listen to youth,” Childs said. “They have voices as well and need to be heard.”
How you can help?
MYM services and one full-time social worker are funded through proceeds from Neet’s Sweets and private donations. If you want to contribute to the cause, buy Neet’s Sweets or check out their page on uBack and find out how to become a donor.
Neet’s Sweets: (980) 214-5931.
Photos: Girls Education and Mentoring Services; Neet’s Sweets, LLC; MYM