By Kendall McGee | April 29, 2021 at 6:14 PM EDT – Updated April 29 at 11:18 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – A Wilmington woman is organizing a march to bring a renewed awareness to lives forever touched by the drug epidemic.
It’s a problem that communities continue to see worsen; In 2020, more than 81,000 people died from overdoses.
Its been five years since organizer Linda Warren lost her beloved granddaughter, Shelby. The mother of three struggled with addiction for years before she died from a heroin overdose at 24 years old.
“Shelby was physically beautiful, intellectually smart, honor roll,”said Linda Warren. “The overdose happened, of all places, it was in the bathroom of a Burger King. What an undignified end of life and what a tragedy. It made Shelby’s story so painful to witness, to watch her slide down that slope where the drugs were more powerful than the love was.”
One way the family copes with the grief of losing Shelby is by shielding others from the same fate.
Warren is a member of APALD, the Association of People Against Lethal Drugs, and is organizing a rally on June 4, at city hall to remember lives lost, like her granddaughter.
“This is an epidemic it’s killing our people and we need to be aware,” explained Warren.
Warren is a deacon at Temple Baptist Church and knows faith leaders are critical to creating a community of strong relationships and healthy values.
Its an approach that’s proven to help before. Churches in the area have a history of bridging the gap not broached by legislators, law enforcement, or government workers.
Those at Port City Community Church, one of the largest churches in the area, know that too. It’s why the church launched its own Refuge Addictions Ministry years back. The program has since grown, and now offers support for people struggling with addiction and their family members every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
“We want to be that spiritual component, to be that encouragement to where that person has hope, and they don’t give up and they keep going,” said Refuge Ministry Director Mandy Hughes.
Its that same divine hope that drives Warren toward the pulpit to raise awareness.
Thursday might have been the first meeting to plan the march, but she already has her sights set on what the event hopes to accomplish.
“I hope will have a re-energized community where churches and agencies, the police, and fire and rescue, and city hall, where everyone takes a renewed interest in trying to end this epidemic,” said Warren.
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