Doug and Shannon Nuckols show off their peonies, part of the garden they’re opening for tours from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at 1096 Ridgeway Drive in Oak Harbor. Freewill donations will go to Compassion First, an organization that rescues women and children from human trafficking. Photo by Daniel Warn/Whidbey News-Times

Garden tour combats sex trafficking

While so many Oak Harbor residents garden for recreation, exercise or to watch new life blossom, Doug and Shannon Nuckols garden for a cause.

They want to end the global sex-trafficking industry.

The Nuckols are opening their substantial garden for a tour with donations going toward the end of human trafficking. The tour will be on a drop-in basis from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at 1096 Ridgeway Drive, Oak Harbor.

“This is our second one — we did one last year — and it is for an organization called Compassion First, which rescues women and children out of human trafficking” Doug Nuckols said. “People come out to tour our garden at our home here and donate to the cause.”

Shannon Nuckols said she is blessed to be able to harness her hobby to benefit such a cause, but feels like she “is cheating” sometimes because she loves the work so much.

She said the garden tour makes a lot of sense to do because the Nuckols already have neighbors that come by asking to spend time on the grounds. With built-in appreciation of their work it was a no-brainer for the couple to team up with an organization like Compassion First for a day.

Compassion First is a non-profit organization founded in August 2007 to help serve victims of child sexual trafficking.

According to its website, Compassion First “exists to oppose the oppression of commercial sexual exploitation,” but it doesn’t stop there.

“Compassion First not only gets women and children out of human trafficking, but it provides counseling for them,” Doug Nuckols said.

Compassion First partners with each survivor as she progresses through its aftercare program at Sarah’s House, the organization’s premier aftercare facility in North Sulawesi, Indonesia.

“Sarah’s House is an all-in-one, 24-hour, secure care facility where meaningful, trauma-specific therapeutic care from qualified Indonesian and expatriate staff is made available,” states the Compassion First website.

The Nuckols’ garden wasn’t always of a size that could be toured.

“It started with a birdbath that the kids gave me for Mother’s Day, and I thought, ‘Well, we have to have some flowers,’” Shannon Nuckols said. “We just kept adding.”

Nuckols was true to her word. The couple have filled all usable space of their half-acre plot with pocket gardens that are varied as they are eclectic.

They have a garden that displays the names of every person they know that has served or is serving in the U.S. military; a garden with a kitchen motif; and a garden bed framed with — well — a bed.

There are even gardens planted in the miniature; themed for the fairies that the Nuckols’ grandkids favor.

While thinking about the children that are sold into slavery — kids the same age as her own grandchildren — Shannon Nuckols teared up.

“As parents and grandparents, we look at our children and grandchildren and think, ‘How could you not have ridden a bike, how can you not have lived a life that was carefree for a while?’” she said. “It is not okay, is what it all boils down to.

“It is not okay.”

The Nuckols made a pocket garden out of old kitchen furnishings. Photo by Daniel Warn/Whidbey News-Times.

This miniature “fairy garden” amuses the Nuckols’ grandchildren. Photo by Daniel Warn/Whidbey News-Times.

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