The co-founders of We Are The Essentials, Nick Tusconi and Billy Lane, on a grid search of the woods for missing woman Tonya Whipp.

Imagine watching the news and a story of a missing person is aired. It’s inconceivable to believe such a thing could happen to someone you know, until it does. Sadly, more people go missing than most realize. In Florida alone, 1,252 people are currently missing. In the United States, there are over 600,000 people who go missing every year, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons Database (NamUs).

For families in these situations, the first place to turn is law enforcement. In addition to the police doing their part, a nonprofit organization called We Are The Essentials joins the effort of finding lost loved ones.

Most families don’t know where to begin when a loved one goes missing. This is where ‘The Essentials’ come into play, whether it’s running background checks or phone pings, or searching through social media or banking records. The Essentials often work hand in hand with local police and, after taking on a case, investigate for free (paid out of their own pockets).

This organization was formed in 2021 after aiding in the Gabby Petito investigation. Police were searching for suspect Brian Laundrie, who disappeared following the discovery of Petito’s body. Using their investigative skills, The Essentials found some key evidence at Fort Desoto Park that led them to Carlton Reserve in North Port. Laundrie was found there, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. After this case, The Essentials decided to continue to use their skills to help others in Central Florida find their loved ones.

We Are The Essentials is made up of many volunteers and four main members: Nico Tusconi (retired Marine), Billy Lane (former police detective), Shelley Coroft and Amanda Reece. The core members are licensed private investigators. Recently, they located and brought home Anu Awasthi, a Pinellas County mom who had gone missing for a week.

Coroft mentioned, “We don’t take on many criminal cases but rather mental health, addiction, elderly/Alzheimer’s and suicidal-related missing persons cases.”

Coroft also stated, “We are always looking for corporate sponsors and are regularly vetting volunteers for grid searches. We need a sponsor for a van to have as a communication center during active searches.”

Anyone interested in volunteering or sponsoring We Are The Essentials can contact it via its website at

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Ashley Abene has written for the Osprey Observer since 2023. She has a master’s degree in writing and literature and a bachelor’s degree in professional writing from the University of South Florida. She has taught college-level writing and literature at USF and Southeastern University for over nine years. She’s a blogger at Peace Filled Family and enjoys writing children’s books. She’s also a mom to three kids, and her husband has been serving in the military for over 20 years.