W.Va. woman hopes to open human trafficking refuge
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) – One of Mohandas K. “Mahatma” Gandhi’s famous quotes,”Be the change you want to see in the world,” is a favorite saying of Penny Kay Hoeflinger.
“I want to leave a footprint on the Earth,” she said in a recent interview. “I don’t care if people know who I was or what I was, but I want to leave a legacy.”
Hoeflinger hopes that legacy will be Coffee House Farm: “A safe place for women who have been rescued from human trafficking and need a compassionate place to rebuild their lives from the trauma they have endured.”
She is in the process of raising the money to buy a 12-acre farm on Bunk House Road a little south of Kearneysville. The asking price is $389,000, and so far, she has commitments of about $200,000, but no cash in hand yet.
Her effervescent enthusiasm for the project has attracted several supporters from across the country and around the world who are helping her to raise the money.
“There would be no time limit on the length the women can stay at the farm,” Hoeflinger said. “It will be a safe, compassionate place for them to heal. There are not enough safe places that give women time to heal. Most facilities are not into long-term care. I am.”
She plans to have horses for the women to care for and organic farming, where they can cultivate their own food – and counseling services.
Hoeflinger has master’s degrees in psychology and business management with a concentration in health care systems as well as an associate degree in chemical dependency. She has been described as a natural counselor, with a knack for listening.
She also has her life experience.
Hoeflinger is a victim of rape, spousal abuse and human trafficking.
“In New Jersey, I was sold from truck to truck (at truck stops),” she said.
She also became addicted to drugs and alcohol. She has been in recovery and sober for more than 35 years. She is active in a 12-step program.
In 1987, Hoeflinger gave her life to Christ, she said.
“God was hanging onto me,” she said. “But he had to laugh sometimes at some of the decisions I made.”
Hoeflinger grew up on a ranch in Wyoming. In 1989, she came to West Virginia via Pennsylvania to take up residence in Glenwood Forest, Hoeflinger said.
“I walked away to start a new life,” she said. “I needed to take a breath of fresh air. I’ve been finding my own self, finding who I am, living my story.”
In 2011, she came up with the idea for the Coffee House Farm.
“I reflected back on my youth, when we would sit in coffee shops and talk about changing the world and that’s where the name comes from,” Hoeflinger explained.
She is in the process of obtaining tax-exempt, nonprofit status for the Coffee House Farm Foundation.
Several fundraisers have been organized by her supporters.
From 6-9 p.m. Feb. 28, a catered dinner will be held at the Comfort Inn, 1872 Edwin Miller Blvd., Martinsburg. This coming-out event is $15 per person, $5 per child 6-12 years old and free for kids under 5 years old.
A fundraiser is scheduled for May 17 in Winchester, Va.
Donations can be made to the Coffee House Farm Foundation at the Bank of Charles Town.
On July 28, Hoeflinger is going to embark on a hiking trip from Williamsport, Md., to Natural Bridge, Va., along U.S. 11, a distance of about 180 miles.
“I have to walk between 15 and 20 miles a day,” she said.
Several individuals and groups plan to walk with her for segments of the trip to show support for her goal and mission.
Hoeflinger plans to wear leather moccasins on the trip, to honor the Native Americans who lived in the Shenandoah Valley and used the Great Warrior Path, which today is U.S. 11.
She has been practicing for the hike.
“On my second day, I walked two miles and I thought that was great,” Hoeflinger said. “Then I realized I had to walk back to my car.”
She also has picked U.S. 11 because it parallels Interstate 81 through Virginia and West Virginia. I-81 is a major route for human trafficking, she said, but she can’t hike on the interstate.
Supporters can pledge $1 per mile that will go toward the purchase of the Coffee House Farm.
At 65 years old, Hoeflinger’s energy is more than impressive and her passion for her mission is contagious.
“I didn’t want to sit in a rocking chair and complain about arthritis,” she said. “I want to be the change.”