A sister's Love....restores faith in "Hope"
This weeks featured member is Libba Phillips, Founder of
Hope & Northern California Area Director for the Doe
Libba’s sister Ashley vanished in March of 1999 from
Tampa, Florida. Ashley was 24 years old and days out of a
drug treatment center when she disappeared. This is a critical point
in life where many folks lose contact with their loved ones,
estranged by the addictions, seperated by the rifts created.
When local law enforcement would not file a missing persons
report and ignored her family’s plea for help, Libba was
forced into action. Libba went to the streets of Tampa, FL
to search for her sister alone. It was out of this experience
that she saw the need to create a nonprofit organization to assist
families of under-represented missing which often
include those lost to a life on the streets, the homeless, and
runaways. Out of desperation, clinging only to hope, the Outpost for
Hope was born.
Eventually, Libba was successful and a missing persons
report was filed and reported to the National
Crime Information Center (NCIC) almost four years after
Ashley had disappeared. It took many letters and phone calls
to higher level government officials to achieve this.
Libba was in very deep at this point. She had first hand knowledge of
the missing and unidentified. Having come to
terms in her own heart that Ashley was likely dead, Libba
had approached the Doe Network as she began looking for a
Jane Doe that fit Ashley’s description.
In fact she has even viewed a body at one point in a morgue.
Partly relieved that it wasn’t Ashley, but at the same
time feeling closure slip away.
In the spring of 2003, Ashley was found alive four states away
from where she disappeared and today she is recovering in safety
with the support of her family.
Libba has re-established the close relationship with her
sister as she helps her come to terms with the events of the
past few years. Suffice it to say that the missing years were
a horrible ordeal. Each day with her sister is a miraculous gift,
says Libba. The story has been outlined in an
article in the Sacramento Bee.
The fact that she had come to terms with the possibility
that Ashley was dead was what brought her to the Doe
Network. She not only became a member but took a place as
an Area Director for California.
Libba recently interviewed on behalf of the Doe Network and
her Outpost for Hope on Tech TV. Tech TV had called in regards to an article that featured
the Las Vegas coroner and their use of graphic photos of the
unidentified deceased rather than the reconstructed and
enhanced images favored by Doe Network.
I felt like Libba was one of the best people to assign the
interview, since she had been one of the people that had to
look at a body to try and identify them as a loved one. So
she knew first hand how that makes you feel. Libba feels
like most of us here at the Doe Network in regards to using
actual images, she tends to favor the enhanced images, but
she applauds the effort to bring these cases online. The
though of a body going un-claimed and un-named is more
tragic then the images found on the Las Vegas coroners
The vision for Outpost for Hope came from a desire to
channel personal grief into positive action. Her search for
Ashley inspired Libba to make a positive difference in the
lives of others and to create a catalyst for change.
I like to think that Libba was tested by the "fire"
....singed but not consumed, she is one of the people out there you
trust when she says. "I understand."
On a personal note...in conversations with Libba, I can only hint to
the sacrifices she has made to promote the cause. Even at the point
where others might have stopped. She didn't stop when she found her
missing loved one, because she found more than Ashley on her journey
....she found a calling in life.
Thanks go out to Libba for taking her personal experience
and using them to help guide others to closure, and for providing proof
that one should always hold onto hope despite the obstacles life throws
in the way.