Fourth annual walk to raise opioid addiction awareness

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BENNINGTON — Those who wanting to see an end to the opioid epidemic will take to the streets Saturday.

Starting at 11 a.m., the Turning Point Center of Bennington County will host the fourth annual Walk for Recovery to raise awareness about opioid addiction. With registration beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the corner of School Street and Pleasant Street. Marchers will go up Pleasant Street and around onto Main Street, ending at the First Baptist Church. The first 80 registrants will receive a free t-shirt

"The walk is to create awareness in the community," said Turning Point Center Executive Director Kenneth Sigsbury, who was recently appointed to the Governor's Opiate Coordination Council. "We want to let people know that there's a place for them to come if they're seeking recovery, or have family members that are suffering."

Following the walk Turning Point will host a reception at the First Church, featuring speakers like House Rep. Mary Morrissey, R-Bennington, local youth and parents, and Sigsbury himself. This year, however, the reception will include a new kind of commemoration.

"We also had a really cool idea, and got permission from the Church to plant a tree of life on their property," said Sigsbury. "We'll also have a ceremony for that this year."

The annual event coincides with the National Recovery Month, each September, meant to educate and enable those suffering from substance abuse to pursue a healthy and rewarding life.

"September is national recovery month, which gives people a special time to identify with recovery and show awareness that recovery is possible, that recovery is the solution," said Sigsbury. "As everyone knows, there's a huge opiate epidemic in our community."

"The more the community is educated, the more we can urge the community to end the stigma," said Geri Gilmore of Manchester's Fed Up, which is working to utilize momentum from an Aug. 31 rally in support of the Walk for Recovery. " I hope it will create a unity that forces action at every level."

According to organizers, addressing such a pervasive problem requires community action and awareness.

"As the African proverb says, it takes a village," said Gilmore. "As much as we want the federal government to take action, this is a community problem as well as a societal problem."

"We're losing a lot of young people to this disease," said Sigsbury. "Heroin is a huge problem in our community."

Throughout Bennington County, Turning Point is working to support recovery by providing both direct assistance and community programming to those struggling with addiction.

"We're right on Main Street any time," said Sigsbury. "They can come to see a recovery coach, they can attend a meeting, they can talk one on one with a volunteer or staff member. We just want to remind everyone that we're here, and make them aware."

While there is often a stigma attached to addiction, Turning Point works to alleviate any obstructions addicts may face on the road to recovery.

"Sometimes people with addiction have a problem with housing, or food, or clothing, or even getting medical insurance," said Sigsbury. "We have a whole resource book at Turning Point, so we can help them get those issues out of the way to start focusing on recovery."

Through Saturday's walk, Sigsbury hopes that he can foster and multiply that sense of community commitment and support.

"When you stop using or drinking you can't go back to the same people, places, or things from you addiction. You have to build community and support," said Sigsbury. "Through that community, we can start helping more people that are struggling. There's a chain reaction when it comes to helping others, and sharing those experiences with the community."

"I'm looking forward to a feeling of compassion, and a sense of unity and awareness, within the community on this issue," said Gilmore. "The problem is countrywide, statewide, nationwide; I think that the more we unify, the quicker we'll be able to find a solution."

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.

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