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Beacon of hope lights up Norwalk

By CAITLEN CAMERON • Dec 8, 2017 at 3:06 PM

A beacon of light shines like the Bat-signal, offering hope to the community. Instead of calling a crime-fighting superhero though, this beacon shines to guide those caught in the grips of substance abuse.

“Addiction is a disease; it is not a choice; it is not a moral failing; it is not a flaw in decision making,” said Mental Health and Addiction Services assistant director Jennifer Prince. “These people need help from the community. It takes everybody.”

The Huron County Peer Recovery Community Center officially opened its doors Dec. 2 in an event that drew a large crowd filled with state officials, recovering addicts and their families. The event featured the grand opening ribbon cutting, testimonies from surviving addicts and a recovery concert.

The center, housed at 30 Shady Lane, is considered by one of its founders, Michael Pack, to be a place where a 12-step program meets a community center “all in one,” where anybody on their journey to sobriety or addressing their addiction is welcome.  The Huron County Peer Recovery Community Center is part of FI Community Housing, Inc., a non-profit organization.

The facility, which is the first of its kind in Northwest Ohio, shines a beam of light straight up into the sky, guiding the way for others to find it, CEO Denny Wilson said.

“This is a beacon of light for this community and every community surrounding,” Wilson said. “If you glance over and see it above the building, it is what we represent.”

Huron County Commissioner Terry Boose acknowledged the county’s drug problem. The center was something Norwalk needed for a long time becasue there was “nobody to help,” he said.

Norwalk Police Chief Dave Light said the facility was “long past due.”

“Way back in 2000 when we bought our first heroin (as part of a controlled drug buy) in Norwalk, we said, ‘Well, this looks like heroin but we’ve never seen it in Norwalk before,’ so we had it tested and sure enough it was heroin,” he said. 

“Over the next few years, it gradually picked up and became like a snowball rolling down hill. There hasn’t been nearly enough done to educate young people in this area and to get help to people who have been in this area.”

Light added the center was needed to achieve more than his force could. 

“You can only make so many arrests and so forth and this is a bigger problem than what the criminal justice system can handle.”

Peer Recovery also meant a lot to the local recovering addicts, who said they appreciated the ability to help others through the same battle. The community center volunteer coordinator Scott Summerlin, who is a recovering addict, said the center will make a big difference in the community.

“I am very humbled to be standing here in recovery, sober and being a part of something greater than myself. I believe that God does miracles that people drive by every day but I believe this is a miracle that people will stop at every day.

“This place is going to save lives — watch. Don’t take my word for it. Watch. Be a part of it. Engage yourself in recovery,” Summerlin said.

The facility’s grand opening was a moment that is going to be remembered, according to Shankar Kurra, senior vice president of medical affairs at Fisher-Titus Medical Center.

“This is a historic day,” he said. “This is one step that Norwalk should be very proud of. What the city is doing today is truly historic. We will see the results.”

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