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May 23, 2023

Founder of Worcester nonprofit LIFT no longer part of leadership

Photo | Erika Sidor Nicole Bell, founder of Living in Freedom Together

Living in Freedom Together, a Worcester nonprofit organization aiming to end the sex trade, is no longer led by its founder, Nicole Bell. 

Bell, who founded LIFT in 2014 and served as its CEO, is not listed on the organization's leadership page. Courtney Ross Escobar and Audra Doody are listed as co-CEOs on LIFT’s website.

Bell founded the organization based on her experiences as a survivor of prostitution and substance abuse, and she has been an outspoken advocate in attempting to end the sex trade. She has filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Worcester over the actions of its former food program director William Riley, who Bell and two others accused of forcing them to perform sex acts in order to access the food pantry.

Bell could not be reached for comment.

The leadership change was effective on May 8, after Ross Escobar and Doody were appointed as co-CEOs by LIFT’s board of directors, according to a statement reported by MassLive and the Telegram & Gazette. LIFT and Ross Escobar did not respond to requests to provide the statement to the WBJ.

The statement did not give a reason for Bell’s departure, according to MassLive, who first reported the story.

“The decision to move forward with new leadership and a new corporate governance model was not made without thorough consideration,” the statement read, according to MassLive. “Growth can be painful, and change can be hard, but the Board of Directors is confident that these changes will enable LIFT to continue its important mission and serve its participants.”

Ross Escobar has served as chief operating officer and legal counsel at LIFT since 2019, according to LIFT’s website. Doody was previously vice president of direct services at the organization.

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