By ASHLEY INGE
STEPHENVILLE (October 23, 2018) – The Erath County Community Coalition (E3C) is hosting their third annual candlelight vigil to honor those who have lost their lives due to substance abuse.
The candlelight vigil will be held on Thursday, Oct. 25 from 7-8 p.m. in the Birdsong Amphitheater at Stephenville City Park.
Community Coalition Coordinator, Eric Lockwood, said that the vigil seeks to do two things:
“One is to remember those that have been lost to substance abuse, but two is to reduce the stigma around substance abuse so that we don’t have to lose as many more in the future,” Lockwood said. “We really want to help families work through this if they’ve lost someone or they have someone in their lives who is struggling with substance abuse, to get the help that they need.”
The vigil is free and open to the public. During the vigil, there will be a table set up for families to bring photos of an individual whom they have lost. There will also be organizations in the community during the event that can provide counseling or recovery services to those who need or want it. The Tarleton State University choir will also provide a song during the moment of reflection. The speaker at the vigil will be Kathy O’Keefe.
“[Kathy] runs an organization called Winning the Fight. She lost her son to substance abuse and has kind’ve devoted her life to this. She’s going to talk about her story, but also about some of the things that she’s been able to do, even within the last few years, to change policies and to work with communities to help in this area and to bring hope in this area,” Lockwood said.
This is Lockwood’s first year as the community coalition coordinator and he hopes that this event will continue to grow over the years.
“I know [the vigils] happened in our community the last couple of years [and I am] wanting to, hopefully, just continue to grow and grow the number of people that are being involved in it, the number of families that are coming out, community members, maybe, who haven’t lost someone, but they’re looking to participate in something like this. I know that we’ve grown in the past. The first two [vigils], we’ve been able to see a growth and we’re hoping to see a continued growth in the number of people who have been there and the number of people that we’ve been able to honor,” Lockwood said.
Lockwood said the EC3’s goal is to see the stigma around substance abuse diminish so that anyone who is struggling with substance abuse can find the help that they need.
“Anyone who is struggling with substance abuse, they can reach out. They can talk to somebody or go in for help. They don’t have to feel like they have to do it on their own. They don’t have to feel like they have to hide this situation from the people around them. They are able to take those steps and make those things happen so that this doesn’t have to be their family’s story as well,” Lockwood said. “We want our community to be able to come around and say, ‘We support people who are struggling with substance abuse. We know that’s a reality in our community,’ It doesn’t mean they’re bad people; it just means that they need some help. They need someone to talk to. They need someone to work with, to be there for them so that they don’t have to have this be their story.”
In addition to the vigil, the EC3 is also partnering with the DEA on Oct. 27 from 9 a.m. to noon for their National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. There are two locations in Erath County that citizens can dispose of their unused or expired prescription drugs: Tanglewood Pharmacy and the Stephenville Police Department. Lockwood invites the community to participate in this “safe, anonymous, easy way” of disposing of medications.
October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. For more information about the candlelight vigil or Take Back Day, call the EC3 at 254-965-5515 or check out the EC3 on the STAR Council website.