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Crowned Free’s Fashion Line Funds ‘Massive Need’ to Restore Victims of Human Trafficking

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Crowned Free Cutline No. 1Heidi VanderWal: “God has spoken supernaturally through this whole journey.” Heidi VanderWal purposely keeps a journal next to her bed.

The direct sales entrepreneur keeps pen and paper at hand because she never knows when a concept will unexpectedly sprout in her mind that she can use for her custom fashion business named Crowned Free that her and a friend founded.

The ideas VanderWal says she receives from God are vital because they are fused to Crowned Free's mission of helping survivors of sex trafficking.

A supernatural journey

"God has spoken supernaturally through this whole journey," said VanderWal. "My journal's full of what to do and when to do it. He'll (God) often wake me in the middle of the night with a picture of a design or a phrase we're suppose to put on our shirt."

Crowned Free was founded with her friend Danielle DeSmit in 2014, following a human trafficking conference the two attended about four years earlier at Resurrection Life Church in Grandville.

Until attending the conference, VanderWal had no knowledge sex trafficking was rife in West Michigan and elsewhere.

"That's where God planted the seed," said VanderWal. "At that point I did not realize human trafficking was happening in West Michigan, in our nation, in our backyards. That was a big eye opener for me. I didn't know what to do but it was horrific."

Despite attending the eye-opening seminar, VanderWal initially was uncertain what role she could play in stemming the tide of this insidious crime. VanderWal made prayers of intercession.

Praying in the idea

"God had been telling me about that time He was going to give me an idea about a business that I would own," recalled VanderWal. "I started praying into that idea for years. In January 2014 I kept waking up with this idea to start a clothing line. I think this is what I've been praying into. I had no fashion design experience; I just took a leap of faith and started walking it out. A few months later while driving at the intersection of 84th Street and East Beltine I heard God clearly say out of the blue, 'Attach this business to a purpose' and I knew immediately what it would be."

Crowned Free Cutline No. 2Heidi VanderWal is accompanied by her daughter, independent sales representatives and the daughter of a sales representative to display the “you are worth it” line that’s based on Proverbs 31:10. (“You are worth more than rubies and pearls.”) VanderWal and DeSmit initially launched Crowned Free to sell custom fashions, such as women and children's clothing's, bags and totes, jewelry, scarves, and other accessories, in boutiques.

Then in 2017, Crowned Free was launched as a party plan/direct selling company that culls independent sales representatives who earn commissions. Online purchases are still available. Then in March of this year, DeSmit felt God was leading her in another direction and left Crowned Free. VanderWal and her husband, Mark, are the for-profit business's sole owners.

Fifteen percent of Crowned Free's profits goes toward organizations that fight human trafficking that includes, but is not limited to, Wedgwood Christian Services' Manasseh Project, which is dedicated to ending the sexual exploitation of young men and women in West Michigan, according to its website.

Other anti-sex trafficking organizations Crowned Free supports include Exodus Cry, 1 Saved, Redeemed Ministries and Crisis Aid International. A complete list can be found here: https://crownedfree.com/wear-to-give/

'Massive need' for finances

"Their stories are horrible," said VanderWal. "There's a massive need for finances to do the rescues, rehabilitating and educating the girls."

VanderWal said more than half of Crowned Free's products are made by survivors of sexual exploitation such as earrings created in Nepal, girls' shirts in Cambodia and totes in India.

Girls connected to the The Manasseh Project make pillows, which in turn teach them a trade.

"They're learning to sew, to screen print, they're learning a trade," said VanderWal. "They're learning about the gifts they didn't know they had."

There is significance to the images printed on Crowned Free's clothing line, but it would be amiss to relegate it to symbolism.

A top VanderWal wore to a West Michigan Christian News interview had the word "refuge" printed on it with a feather draped across the front, in reference to God being our refuge (Psalm 91). Other items include difference maker dog tags; let your light shine pillows; inspiring note cards; and encouraging statements ablaze on shirts including "with brave wings she flies" and "you are worth it." There's also tops with Crowned Free's logo printed on it, which purposely has nine points on it to represent the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Men need to wise up, too

And not long ago, a men's line was launched dubbed the Watchmen.


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"We want men to wise up and be a part of this," continued VanderWal. "We need to change the culture and get men behind this and support this. God laid it out for us this is what you're logo is going to be and this is what it's going to be called."

The business' name, Crowned Free, has several layers of importance. First, there is the hymn, "Crown Him With Many Crowns;" many verses in the Bible allude to crowns; and then there's the dream God gave Danielle DeSmit that cemented the business' name.

"God gave a dream to Danielle of a beauty pageant ... where only one girl gets a crown and it could be taken away," said VanderWal. "In My kingdom, My crown is freely given and it won't be taken away. All you have to do is receive it. Crowned Free (God) told us was going to be our name.

Plus, crowns appeal to women.

"Girls love crowns," VanderWal said. "A crown is a universal symbol."


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Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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