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Meet Our Founder

Meet Tomas Lares, the passionate founder of United Abolitionists.

Tomas J. Lares has dedicated over 33 years of human services experience at the local, state, and national level, managing and starting non-profits and public advocacy initiatives.

Lares began his career in 1990, working with Big Brother Big Sisters in Polk County, Florida. There, he he worked with children that were being abused and exploited by their parents.

In 2004, Lares’s understanding of human trafficking deepened thanks to former U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, KS. This knowledge spurred him to facilitate one of Central Florida’s first human trafficking seminars in 2005, attracting over 100 attendees. This led to the co-founding of the Space Coast Rescue and Restore Coalition, now known as the Space Coast Human Trafficking Task Force.

In 2007, Lares co-founded the Orlando Rescue and Restore Coalition (Task Force) to network key stakeholders in the Greater Orlando region, marking the beginning of a partnership with the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation. That same year, he partnered with former CEO Carol Wick at the Harbor House of Central Florida to begin placing victims/survivors of sex trafficking with their program.

Lares’s commitment to advocacy was further demonstrated when he played a pivotal role in the first human trafficking outreach at Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, hosted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In the same year, Lares founded a new non-profit called Florida Abolitionist, Inc., now known as United Abolitionists.

Lares has been instrumental in creating a 24-hour Human Trafficking Hotline in Central FL and for advocating Orange County Government to fund a first of its kind adult female human trafficking crisis/short-term 24-hour residential program in the state of Florida.

On January 11, 2009, Lares led the first Human Trafficking Awareness march in downtown Orlando and is preparing to celebrate the 17th Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day events in January 2025.

In 2013, the Orlando Rescue & Restore Coalition was renamed and incorporated in Florida as the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force, Inc.

In 2014, Lares graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Citizen’s Academy and was nominated as a finalist for the Orlando Sentinel ‘Central Floridian of the Year Award.’

Lares has been a driving force in uniting various groups to combat human trafficking through improved communication, collaboration, and coordinated care.

In 2015, Lares was nominated by Holland & Knight law firm and was chosen for the Orange County Bar Association ‘Liberty Bell’ Award.

In 2016, he was recognized by former State Attorney Jeff Ashton for his efforts and collaboration in assisting the Ninth Judicial Circuit including the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation with creating the specialized human trafficking victim services program.

In 2017, Lares's commitment to social entrepreneurship was recognized when United Abolitionists was selected to participate in the Rally - The Social Enterprise Accelerator. He continued to leverage innovation and education by partnering with the University of Central Florida Rosen College of Hospitality Management to develop anti-human trafficking curriculum and training.

In 2018, Lares was a founding member and appointed to the Advisory Board of the University of Central Florida’s Center for the Study of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery.

In 2019, Florida Abolitionist Inc. did a name change to United Abolitionists Inc. and launched a partnership with the University of Central Florida Rosen College of Hospitality Management to create a curriculum on human trafficking along with college faculty and launch a community education and training program at the College for the hospitality and tourism industry.

Also in 2019, Lares co-founded the Task Force on Computational Law for Combating Modern Slavery, an initiative of the MIT Computational Law Report.

In 2020, Lares co-founded the Tri-County Alliance On Human Trafficking and joined the volunteer development team at the University of South Florida Trafficking In Persons Lab’s BRIGHT Project. He was honored by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody as the ‘Community Advocate of the Year’ for the state of Florida during the Attorney General’s Annual Summit On Human Trafficking.

In 2021, Lares was recognized as the Orlando Magic Diversity Game Changer.

In 2022, Lares became the co-chair for the Lake-Sumter Counties Human Trafficking Task Force. He was also appointed by the Florida Statewide Human Trafficking Council’s Services & Resource Committee to Co-Chair the Housing Standards Working Group. That same year, SB 1690 was passed, and the working group was written into the statute, making Florida the first state in the U.S. to mandate safe home standards and certification for adult survivors of human trafficking.

In 2023, Lares co-founded and co-chaired the Florida Human Trafficking Legislative Working Group. Additionally, he was the recipient of the ‘Frederick Douglass Award’ at the 13th Annual Polaris Star Awards in Orlando, Florida. Lares was also chosen as an Advisor for the University of South Florida TIP Lab which, under SB 7064, authorizes the creation of the statewide repository for human trafficking data and mandates that state agencies share human trafficking incidence data with the Lab.

In 2023, Lares was honored to be invited as a guest author for the 2nd Edition of the joint Valencia College and the University of Central Florida textbook ‘Human Trafficking: A Systemwide Public Safety and Community Approach’.

In 2024, Lares was nominated by State Attorney Andrew Bain from the Ninth Judicial Circuit and was chosen as the recipient for the Orange County Bar Association ‘Liberty Bell’ Award.

Lares has an undergraduate degree in Psychology, a minor in World Missions, and has worked on graduate studies in the MSW program at the University of Central Florida.

Tomas' dedication and efforts have made substantial impacts in the fight against human trafficking, with numerous accolades and recognitions marking his journey. His leadership continues to inspire and drive the mission of United Abolitionists to eradicate modern-day slavery.

Each donation is an essential help which improves everyone's life

Your generous contribution ismuch more than a donation; it is a beacon of hope, shining light in the darkest corners where exploitation and slavery lurk.

Concrete Help for a Better and Kinder World

Providing Crucial Training to the Front Line

Victims are often abruptly recovered with only the clothes on their backs. For just $75 you can provide a backpack with key essentials like toiletries and clothing for a recovering victim.

First Responders to the Human Trafficking Crisis

Hotline Advocates are ready 24/7 and are the crucial element in the rescue process. For just $150 you can provide emergency services for a person in need.

Coordinated Care for Victims

Comprehensive Care Coordination (i.e. transportation, counseling, food, rehab, safe housing) are examples of victim care. For just $300 you can help UA triage a victim.

Providing Backpacks to Recovered Victims

Experienced training for first responders is critical to effectively identify and report human trafficking in the community. For only $500 you can provide training for 10 first responders!