Building community and beating addiction, one car at a time
The Kocher Drive parking lot hosted several dozen people, community organizations, donated food, entertainment and prizes, and even a 2018 Camaro that Bennington Chevrolet loaned for the day on Saturday.
Looking around, Myers said, "I hope people see that there are people that care."
Throughout the afternoon, cars, a truck, a motorcycle and even a purple tractor trickled in to join the show. Among them was Myers' electric blue Acura Integra, which he built in memory to a childhood friend who died in a drunken-driving crash in 2000. Most of the other drivers were friends of 34-year-old Myers and came out in solidarity.
One family, Buskirk, N.Y. residents Casey and Logen Terry and their 7-year-old son, Trenton, decided to attend because they wanted to be part of the effort to create a community-wide support system. Casey and Trenton stayed up late the night before to get their 2015 Chevrolet Camaro - black, with a purple center stripe - ready.
"We were up until 2:30 in the morning getting it buffed," Casey said. It was a last-minute job, but he was inspired by Myers' recovery after years of opioid addiction and jail, a move to Michigan, and a move back to Bennington last year.
"He turned his life around," Casey said.
Logen Terry, who is Myers' cousin, said she hoped Saturday's event would give people the courage to confront their struggles and reach out.
"I think people would ask for help more if they weren't scared," she said.
Anyone who attended the Bring Your Build car show had the chance to seek out resources. The Center for Restorative Justice's pretrial monitor and adult restorative programs case manager Kimberly Phillips, for instance, served popcorn and explained how part of the restorative process includes reintegrating people back in their communities.
Referring to the car show, Phillips said, "I think it's a good support place for people. Just to do something fun — even if it's for a serious reason."
Across the way, Turning Point Center of Bennington set up beneath another tent. A black-covered board displayed colored pieces of paper inscribed with the names of people killed by addiction. Above these was the message: "To Everyone Who Needs Us: We Are Here."
Saturday's event offered lighter fare, too. Bennington County State's Attorney Erica Marthage offered face paint to kids, who could get what they wanted — be it cat or a skull and crossbones — before heading over to the red castle bouncy house.
Participants could also sign up to vote or chow down on hamburgers and hot dogs.
Pownal residents Chris Wilder and his 3-year-old son, Franklin, sat in the Wilder Soundz DJ tent.
"I think the town needs a lot more of this," Wilder said. He doesn't want his kids growing up in the atmosphere that addiction creates.
Part of the motivation behind the car show, Myers said, was to provide an alternative, positive activity in Bennington. Car building is a different, healthy kind of high for Myers, and he hopes to open a garage in Bennington with his friend Anthony Davey. The pair said that Bennington Nissan has already donated a car for them to rebuild.
"Eventually we're going to race it at Lebanon Valley Speedway so people can see the accomplishment," Myers said. "I want to keep this going - I want to keep reaching out."
In the meantime, Myers and Davey are sharing their stories. Davey, who drove over his silver 2004 Honda Civic on Saturday, said that while he has never been addicted to drugs, car building did help him break out of a long cycle of incarceration.
"We want to do anything we possibly can to help people in the community, to help them not go down roads we've gone down," Davey said. "People learn from their peers."
"You don't give up on people," Myers added. "You just keep trying and trying and trying."
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