Aug. 11--HAMILTON -- A three-night event here united thousands of concerned citizens, recovering drug addicts and church members with the common mission of helping others find a way to overcome addiction.
Hope Over Heroin, a collaborative effort by over 30 churches in greater Butler County to reach those suffering from drug-related issues, kicked off Friday and included three nights of food, live music, prayer and real stories of overcoming heroin addiction. The event concluded Sunday with a prayer march down High Street.
Pastor Jim Mullins of Calvary Christian Center north of Hamilton said the event exceeded organizers' expectations.
"There's strength in numbers; one church or one entity can't pull this off," Mullins said.
Mullins said about 130 people accepted Christ as their savior during the event and were baptized in a large, portable baptismal pool. Mullins, of Hamilton, said he doesn't know anyone who doesn't have a personal story or connection to the heroin epidemic.
"Heroin knows no respect for a person; rich or affluent or broken and down and out," Mullins said.
Since January, 46 people in Butler County have died of heroin overdoses, the Butler County Coroner's Office confirmed. That number is about 15 percent higher over last year.
Pastor Lawrence Bishop, of Solid Rock Church, said he started reaching out to different area churches to get involved with Hope Over Heroin after he noticed more members of his church struggling with drug addiction.
"We see people come to church high on heroin or dope sick trying to get off it themselves," Bishop said."We have a place for you to go for spiritual help. We're throwing out a lifeline to people."
Holly Bake of Monroe attended Hope Over Heroin on Friday and again on Sunday. Bake said she lost her 24-year-old niece Lindsey Bake to a heroin overdose on July 23 -- she would have turned 25 on Friday. Bake has had custody of Lindsey's son, age 3, since he was six months old.
Bake, who attends Solid Rock Church in Monroe, said people suffering with a drug addiction need "a listening ear."
"Our church doesn't judge; we're just here to help," Bake said. "They don't have the mental strength to overcome it alone."
Sandi Montgomery, of Monroe, attended the event Sunday with Bake. As a grandmother to eight children, Montgomery said she hopes the Hope Over Heroin event can be an eye opener to people that there is help available.
"Once you get on it, you can't get off," Montgomery said. "I think (the event) is just wonderful; you can feel the people come together to let people know people care."
John Travis, of Germantown, said he came out all three nights of Hope Over Heroin to support the community cause. He attends Solid Rock Church and has been three years sober from alcohol and crack cocaine.
"The community needs help; this drug has been rampant too long," Travis said.
Travis said it was his involvement in the church that helped him kick his addictions. Travis said he believes the Hope Over Heroin event will have a positive impact on the community and its heroin problem.
Mullins said churches from the Dayton area, as well as in Kentucky, have reached out to organizers in the hopes of organizing more Hope Over Heroin events.
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