Saturday, October 28th, 2017
Hope for addicts
Group to help those recovering stay clean
By William Kincaid
Grand Lake United Methodist Church pastors Mick Whistler and Diane Mendelson wil. . .
CELINA - A new local recovery group for those battling substance abuse will make its debut Nov. 7 at Grand Lake United Methodist Church's St. Paul campus in Celina.
"Brianna's Hope: A Better Life" is a participant-driven, faith based support group that aims to provide "hope though Christ to individuals and communities battling addiction, using support, encouragement and collaboration."
Brianna's Hope first launched in Redkey, Indiana, on Nov. 5, 2014. It was named after a young woman who struggled with heroin addiction and went missing, according to the non-profit organization. Her remains were found on Sept. 1, 2014, near the Jay County Conservation Club.
"They let active addicts even participate because they want to give them hope. They call themselves Team Hope," Bruce Swonger, a Mercer County House of Hope ministry member, said about the group.
Since the group's formation, numerous chapters have popped up in Indiana. Celina's group will be the first chapter in Ohio.
"I think we're going to have a really good group of local people behind it," Swonger said. "I think it's going to be another active tool to help out the community."
Brianna's Hope, starting Nov. 7, will be held every Tuesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in St. Paul's Fellowship Hall. After providing a free meal to attendees, Team Hope - pastors, recovering addicts and counselors - will facilitate the meeting. Participants, though, will drive much of the topics and dialogue, as they share with one another their stories, trials and tribulations with addiction.
Grand Lake United Methodist Church pastors and Team Hope members Mick Whistler and Diane Mendelson attended numerous chapter sessions throughout Indiana.
"It's real, transparent, raw," Mendelson said of Brianna's Hope. "I liked seeing the relationship of the recovering addicts, the fact that it's faith-based."
Those who come to the sessions may be at various points on the difficult road to recovery. Some may have not yet entered in-patient treatment or 12-step programs while others are looking for support to maintain their hard-fought sobriety, according to the pastors.
"They're all over the map," Whistler said. "What I like about this is it catches people on both ends of the spectrum. If you're wanting to get clean and you're not sure how, and you're tired of being judged by society, this is a safe place to come and hear other folks who have walked the same path you're walking and they can share with you what's working for them."
Whistler believes the faith-component is crucial for getting and staying clean.
"Whatever they call it (God or higher power), you have to believe there's help out there and you have to believe there's hope at the other side of this that (you) can truly get clean," he said. "Because if it's just on me, and I'm battling heroin addiction, I'm not strong enough."
Each session features victory reports in which attendees speak of personal triumphs.
"Maybe it's a first visit. May it's you're clean for 30 days," Mendelson said.
"Maybe it's less than that," Whistler pointed out. "They celebrate just the fact that you're there."
Each session also includes a recitation of Brianna's prayer. The young woman's mother had found the prayer written by her daughter while she was missing.
In January, Swonger said a group of 16 Mercer County community leaders - among them, sheriff Jeff Grey, common pleas court judge Jeffrey Ingraham and county drug court coordinator Alicia Bruce - began brainstorming ideas to further help addicts undergo a whole life transformation.
"And our goal was by the end of the year to have like a Big Brothers, Big Sisters program for people that leave drug court and House of Hope, actually have somebody that can walk alongside these folks," Swonger said.
Mercer County has Houses of Hope for men and women, faith-based sober-living facilities providing a stable environment free of drugs and alcohol to help occupants achieve long-term sobriety and independent living and become contributing members of society
The program the group decided on was Brianna's Hope. The organization's founder, Pastor Randy Davis of Redkey, had introduced the program to Grey, Swonger said.
"They're doing it successfully throughout Indiana," Swonger said.
Mendelson hopes Brianna's Hope serves as a support group for many, including those coming out of House of Hope, jail or treatment.
"You want to find out what's happening with their life, and I think it was cause for concern, that we need something else, we need something that will allow folks to walk alongside (one another), mentor, help them ease into society," she said.
After weeks of planning, Whistler and Mendelson believe they're ready for the first session on Nov. 7 at the church, located at 119 East Fulton Street. The biggest hurdle, they said, likely will be securing enough food to offer free meals to participants.
Anyone looking to donate, provide food or help cook meals can call Mendelson at 419-586-6621 or Amber Mott at 567-644-9492.
"Please, Lord, look after me and my family. Please help me to do the right thing and to show people that I am not a bad person inside or out, and help me, Lord, to get through this disappointment again and know I made mistakes, but who doesn't? I don't do it to do wrong. I do it cuz I feel I have no other choice. I want a better life, Lord, I do. Please help me. Do to me as what you feel is best. I surrender to you. In Jesus' name, amen."