Community mourns fatal overdoses, supports recovery

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Community members gathered Thursday to remember those who have died as a result of overdose, empower those who are still fighting the fight and celebrate those in recovery.

Wilsonians joined groups around the world in an Overdose Awareness Day observance held on the Wilson County Public Library lawn. Organizers hope to spread the word about the opioid overdose epidemic and reduce the stigma of drug-related death, said Tiffany Purdy, Eastpointe’s community relations specialist.

“It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of drug overdose,” Purdy told the crowd before a moment of silence was held to remember those who have lost their lives due to an overdose.

The Wilson County Department of Social Services and Eastpointe hosted Thursday’s event in partnership with the Wilson County Substance Prevention Coalition.

Noel Pender, pastor at Tabernacle Baptist Church and also a certified recovery coach, said compassion is vital.

“Compassion is literally your hurt in my heart,” Pender said. “I may not know what you’re going through. But if I have your hurt in my heart, I’m going to want to help.”

He said while people might not have the same struggles, everybody at some point will experience hurt.

“It’s up to us to help one another, help come alongside, help bear one another’s burdens,” Pender said.

He said there is a stigma associated with substance use disorders, which includes substances such as alcohol and drugs.

“There is judgment,” he said. “But everybody has something that they are dealing with.”

He said it’s vital for the community to unite in an effort for neighbors to help one another heal.

“If we get rid of the stigma by allowing other people’s hurt to enter into our hearts, then we can, by the power of God, go and help that person the best we can,” he said. “We may not be able to do everything, but we can let that person know, ‘I may not even know you, but I love you enough to want to help you.’”

Vendors from a variety of organizations were on hand Thursday, passing out information about services and resources available in the community. A children’s corner provided fun-filled activities including free snow cones.