Clarion church hosting event to offer hope in addiction fight

There is hope in Clarion for addicts, former addicts and people in need, and that new hope is flowing from the Hope Rising Church on Liberty Street.

Maura Hoff, the co-pastor at the Hope Rising Church, is keenly aware of the need for hope. Her husband, Harry, is a former addict who turned his life around through his faith.

The church wants to extend hope to people who may be involved in recovery or are still addicted and is hosting a community event Saturday to help reduce the stigma of substance use disorder.

“We want to provide hope, assistance and fun for those trying to begin recovery, struggling, or doing well in recovery,” said Maura Hoff. “We want to lift them up and show them that it is possible.”

“My husband struggled with addiction and we worked through it together. He is on the addiction end of it and I am on the family member end of it,” said Hoff. “It was him and God that really got him through it. He knew that every day after his recovery that he was going to reach out to people.”

Hoff said “God has gifted people to be counselors” and the church uses its connections to send people in need counselors who can provide something more in depth.

Mary Beth Conner is a former registered nurse who became addicted to painkillers. A recovered addict, she recently retired as a certified recovery specialist with the Drug and Alcohol Commission.

The need to “do something more” brought Conner to Hope Rising.

“There is nothing in recovery that is fun and welcoming,” said Conner. “We accept you and you can tell us anything. We are not going to judge you. We will walk through it with you.

“I am in recovery myself,” said Conner. “I have been where they are. I know what it feels like. We can connect with them other resources. There has never been an event like this.

“They need to connect. The opposite of addiction is connection,” said Conner. “These kids feel like they have ruined their life and no one will give them a job or that they have no future. They feel alone. We are here to change that.”

An often-overlooked part of addiction is the stigma attached to it, which Conner said might come from the community, peers, potential employers or even family members.

“The stigma is bad,” said Conner. “We need to change that. It could be your child one day. I have a child going through it. When he was two or three did I ever look at him and think he would be a heroin addict one day? It can happen to anybody.”

“Some times they aren’t thinking rationally at that point,” said Hoff. “In the middle of a full blown addict you are not thinking right. I ask them if they can remember what their life was like before addiction. A lot of times they can’t.

“They have to want it,” said Hoff. “I lot of them don’t want to be where they are at. People say they just want to get high but the reality is that if they don’t take the drug they are going to sick. They don’t want to live like that but they can’t see a way out.”

Hoff said Saturday’s event, which is open to the public from 2 to 8 p.m., will be family friendly with food, bouncy houses, face painting, music, speakers, children’s activities and community resources.

There will also be a remembrance slideshow at the end of the event.

Speakers will include Mike Watterson of the ARC Manor Treatment Center in Kittanning, a drug and alcohol counselor from Brookville Behavioral Health and CareerLink. There will also be Narcan training.

“Our final speaker of the evening will be a mother who lost her son and is now raising his two year old. She will speak on her experience as a mother who lost her son and everything they went through,” said Hoff.