- Associated Press - Sunday, April 16, 2017

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - In what organizers hope will be a turning point for the community, the first High on Hope event at Stadium Field encouraged the addicted to seek help and show them there is hope in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Tim Craft, founder of the High on Hope Ministry located at the Downtown Bethel House of God on Market Street, said he knows what those in need of help face on daily basis.

“I was a 12-year drug addict, a heroin addict,” he said. ‘Three years ago I was set free from addiction and with help from family members and others. I can be compassionate and understand what they are going through and I can understand how they can get out of the problem.”

When Craft was 18, he was exposed to opiates while partying.

“I just started partying and started innocently with pain pills,” he said. “I was actually prescribed them and then I became addicted and over the years it escalated top where I needed more and more and the led to heroin - and a needle.”



Craft said for many years he was what he called a functional addict working at surface mines in the Beckley area, where he was born and raised.

“It caught up with me with the loss of my sister,” he said. “It became heavy on me and I went deeper into it,” he said.

Mack McKenzie, a native of Rutledge, Georgia, a co-founder of High on Hope, said he was surprised at the depth of the problem in the area. He said the program that got him through his addiction moved from Georgia to Parkersburg and he came with them.

“It opened my eyes because where I’m from there are addicted people, but not to this magnitude,” he said. “When I moved up here and saw this magnitude it was overwhelming but I knew I was called to help people in addiction.”

McKenzie said he was addicted to opioids for five years.

“I had a co-worker who was taking pain pills,” he said “I just started taking them not knowing I was getting addicted. So the first time I withdrew I knew I had a problem but the addiction took over and it just escalated. I didn’t know how to get out of it at the time.”

McKenzie said losing a small bag of drugs led him to get help.

“I was at church and the youth pastor was preaching on secret sin,” he said. “When I got home my drug baggie fell out of my pocket and I couldn’t find it. The next morning my Dad found it and then it led to me getting help.”

McKenzie said his goal is to help addicts find help, with the New Creations where he is site director.

“My vision is to house and help addicts find freedom through Jesus Christ,” he said. “That is my goal.”

Craft said since the beginning of High on Hope wants to focus on introducing a solution and people receiving a solution.

“For too long we have to problem-minded that we are not solution oriented,” he said. “I believe a day like today can be a turning point.”

Craft said while the home base for High on Hope is at the Downtown Bethel House of God, a number of churches work with the ministry.

“It’s more than a church thing,” he said. “It is more of a Mid-Ohio Valley thing and we see the valley is getting ready to united and come together to fight.”

Prior to the High on Hope, Craft was the director of the recovery ministry Dreamlife. High on Hope was established in 2016.

“I knew there was a need for to fight the addiction problem, and I felt God placed me here for that,” he said.

Craft said the number of people they have helped in a short time numbers in the thousands.

During the program the Heroin Hearse arrived from Huntington to help drive home the point of what the end can be in addiction;

Dwayne Woods of Huntington said he bought the old hearse in February in Cincinnati with a different use in mind.

“I make custom motorcycles for a living and we were going to cut the top off this to haul motorcycles,” he said. “On the way back from Cincinnati, the airwaves just rang of overdoses and deaths, we heard it all along.

“That was the final straw and I knew this hearse had a different purpose,” he said.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was among the speakers. Morrisey outlined what is being done in West Virginia to help combat the problem and to fight the problem.

“I know so many of our sons and daughters of West Virginia are being victimized by drug addiction; it’s a killer,” he said. “Out of every 100,000 people 41.5 are dying from this epidemic, it’s terrible. We are her today because we know so much needs to be done to fight it.’

Morrisey said faith-based groups like High on Hope mean the whole world to lives who will be saved in the next few years.

___

Information from: News and Sentinel (Parkersburg, W.Va.), https://www.newsandsentinel.com

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