UNITE Bell County celebrates community heroes – Middlesboro News

UNITE Bell County celebrates community heroes – Middlesboro News

UNITE Bell County celebrates community heroes

Published 10:01 am Friday, April 12, 2024

A large crowd packed the Crater City Hub Monday night for UNITE Bell County’s inaugural Community Heroes event. The UNITE coalition honored the individuals and organizations in Bell County who are helping make significant strides in the prevention, treatment and recovery of substance use disorders.

Jeannette Lam, UNITE Bell County chairperson, and Pam Sulfridge, UNITE Bell County vice-chairperson, led the program and handed out plaques in recognition of the organizations and individuals helping as community heroes.

The group meets on the last Tuesday of every month at noon at the Bell County bus garage.

“We love doing what we do and you all make it possible for us to be able to do it,” Lam said to those in attendance. “We’re here to honor those who are making a difference in our community. There are so many people who are working diligently to continue the fight and help those affected by substance abuse disorders.”

Sue Fox with Volunteers of America spoke about UNITE’s Recovery Ready Community application. She said the program was inspired by the Bright Leadership program and established by State Rep. Adam Bowling. It was designed to provide recovery support and reduce the stigma associated with substance abuse disorder while strengthening recovery care across the commonwealth.

“Applying as a recovery ready community for Bell County is a project UNTE is currently working on with the help of many other entities,” Sulfridge said. “It’s important because 49 counties in Kentucky reported more overdose deaths than the national average in 2021. 2,250 Kentuckians were lost to overdoses in 2021. Kentucky has the seventh largest incarceration rate in the world — not in the country, in the world. Those are some pretty staggering statistics.”

She added that one reason the group decided to move forward with the recovery ready community application was because so many resources were available in Bell County already.

“We just need to fill in the gaps and come together, as Sue said, as a community,” Sulfridge said.

Sulfridge also spoke about the importance of community heroes and shared how they helped her during her own battle with drug and alcohol abuse. She received helping hands along the way from Cooperative Christian Ministries, Ray McGregor, Jennifer Nagle, Kristy Burnett, Cathay Woolum, Bell County Drug Court and Judge Robert Costanzo.

“The part we play in the lives of others can be more impactful than we ever imagine — It can mean hope, it can mean encouragement to go on another day,” she said. “They stuck their hands out and were good to me. Just like those people who made a difference in my life, the people in this room are making a difference for others.”

The community heroes were then honored for their service.

Through innovative programs, advocacy efforts, and compassionate care, these heroes exemplify dedication and determination in addressing the multifaceted aspects of substance abuse disorder.. Their unwavering commitment serves as a beacon of hope for individuals and families grappling with addiction.

Also in on hand were UNITE Bell County secretary Heather Woody, treasurer Cathay Woolum, event coordinator Annie Nierengarten, community liaison Jodi Davis as well as Operation UNITE CEO Tom Vicini and coalition coordinator Kathy Burkhart.

Monday’s event was made possible by sponsors Operation UNITE, Trinity Pentecostal Church, Crater City Hub, Stitches and Wishes Boutique, Sheriff Mitch Williams, JohnCo, Annie and Tony Nierengarten, Cater It, Crater City Coffee, Jessie Moberg, Lisa Fugate, Mike Taylor and Waffle King.

For more information about the UNITE Bell County Coalition, follow their Facebook page.

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