Hope Over Heroin event slated to begin Friday, August 16 in Benton

By Jim Muir

The word ‘hope’ is defined by Dictionary.com as follows: to believe, to desire and to trust that what is wanted can be achieved.

All three of those elements – believing, desiring and trusting – will be on display in Benton this weekend, Friday, August 16 and Saturday, August 17 when “Hope Over Heroin,” a two-day, outdoor event takes center stage on the grounds of the Benton Civic Center. And the hope of what “can be achieved” by the multitude of volunteers involved in the important event is to make a huge impact to slow down the growing drug addiction problem in the region.

Franklin County Sheriff David Bartoni said while the event is billed as “Hope Over Heroin” he feels it might be better labeled as ‘hope over addiction.’

“Certainly, the need is great in our region,” said Bartoni. “This event is so important because of the way that drugs and alcohol have impacted our area. Addictions affect the quality of life of families and children so providing resources to help people provides a huge asset to law enforcement.”

The first-ever Hope Over Heroin event was held in 2014 after 14 heroin overdose deaths were reported in one weekend in Hamilton County, Ohio. According to the HOH website: “Hope Over Heroin is a collaborative faith-based ministry believing in and witnessing the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change lives. While we are a faith-based organization we recognize the important of every resource that makes up a community’s fight against addiction. There is no singular solution.”

Ted Anderson, a retired pastor from West Frankfort, is heading up the local event. Details of the event began to fall into place, Anderson said, when he and another minister, Don Robinson, from Tennessee, spoke with Benton Mayor Fred Kondritz.

“We simply asked Mayor Kondritz for permission to pray a prayer of protection and blessing over Benton,” Anderson said. “He enthusiastically gave his permission and blessing! Before leaving his office we asked him what the greatest need in his town is and he quickly said ‘the drug problem’! We prayed and Jesus sent us “Hope Over Heroin”!

Anderson said the totally-free two-day rally will feature entertainment, food, speakers, and more importantly, there will be more than 30 agencies on-site to help any person with an addiction that is seeking help. He said there will even be transportation available to take those seeking help to Gateway Foundation Drug & Alcohol Treatment Center.

“We have transportation in place to take these people for treatment immediately,” said Anderson. “A lot of the time people battling addictions want help but don’t know for sure where to turn. We have that aspect covered, if a person shows up wanting help we will get them help.”

Anderson emphasized that a two-fold approach – physical and spiritual – has the best results when fighting an addiction. Anderson said statistics show that only two percent of people seeking help for an addiction succeed when there is not a faith-based component in the rehab. However, when faith and a spiritual component is added to the equation the success rate increases dramatically to more than 80 percent success rate.

“If a man or woman’s heart is changed for the good, then their life will be changed for the good,” said Anderson. “Through Hope Over Heroin, which provides the preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ, a coalition of faith-based and non-faith-based drug rehab agencies and churches, we believe that this can and will happen.”

The rally has been in the planning stages for several months with more than a dozen churches and scores of volunteers involved in every aspect.

“It has truly been a community effort,” said Anderson. “A lot of volunteers have combined their talents to impact the addiction problem plaguing Southern Illinois. It has been our prayer and it’s our belief that this two-day event will save lives and also change lives for the better forever.”

Anybody needing more information can visit a Facebook page that has been established (Hope Over Heroin/Benton) or call the local HOH phone number at 618-200-0035.

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