In Idyllic Landscape, Minister Sees Ugliness Of Drugs

March 17, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

The Rev. Nick McDonald, pastor of the Deer Creek Episcopal Parish, sees two Darlingtons.

In one Darlington, historic houses and thriving farms line the village's main roads.

In the other Darlington, families cope with a history of drug andalcohol abuse, many living in poverty, McDonald said.

"Everybody thinks Darlington is beautiful and pastoral," McDonald said. "But there's a lot of rural poverty. That's a part of Darlington nobody ever sees. We just don't talk a lot about it, but we know it's out there."

But McDonald and his parishioners are taking steps to solve the problem of drug and alcohol abuse in the small northeastern Harford community.

The parish has established the Wilson Ministries Center to provide social services to Darlington area residents. The parish is renovating a house for the center's operations.

Once in full operation, McDonald said the parish hopes the center will provide a fullrange of services, from drug and alcohol treatment to social activities for youths and senior citizens.

The parish bought an eight-bedroom house for the center next to its Grace Memorial Church, in the 1000 block Darlington Road, in December 1989 for $75,000, McDonald said.

The house, about 100 years old, needs major structural repairs before it can be used for the center, McDonald said. At the top of the list is replacement of three trusses, which is expected to be done in three months.

Despite the repairs, McDonald said the parish is moving ahead with establishing programs for community residents.

The church provides a weekly Alcoholics Anonymous session attended by about 60 people, McDonald said. The parish has just started an Alcoholics Anonymous program for teen-agers, but no one has come to the sessions yet.

The parish also offers a program called Children Are People, a project designed to increase self-esteem of youths, McDonald said.

The program's sessions, as well as the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, are in the parish hall. The programs will be moved to the center once the house is renovated, McDonald said.

McDonald said healso would like to open the facility to the county Department of Social Services and the county Spouse Abuse Resource Center for their programs.

McDonald added that he wants the facility to become a community center for youths and other residents to gather for social events and activities.

The parish is developing a part of the house's one-acre lot as a small garden and park which will be open to the public, McDonald said.

The Deer Creek parish, McDonald said, is paying for the center through donations, a loan from the Episcopal Dioceseof Maryland and a bequest from Dorothy Wilson, the center's namesake.

Wilson, a Baltimore resident who grew up in Darlington, gave theDeer Creek parish a bequest of $250,000, McDonald said. She once lived in the house that is being converted into the center.

Volunteers are doing much of the renovation, McDonald said. He added that he plans to ask people who attend the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to help with the center.

"We want this to be their building, too," McDonald said. "We want them to use it."

The parish decided to establish the center after learning that many Darlington area residentsdid not know about the social services available in the county, McDonald said.

Residents near the village don't have easy access to the programs in Bel Air, Aberdeen or Havre de Grace because transportation services do not reach Darlington, he added.

J. Sue Henry, coordinator of the county Drug-Alcohol Impact Program, said she expects the parish to help people who are not reachedby her four-member staff.

"The most important thing is to be in the neighborhood and know the people and know what they need," Henry said. "I would love to see communities throughout Harford County take this initiative."

McDonald noted that the center is a natural extension of Episcopal services. TheRev. Samuel Shoemaker, an Episcopal minister, was one of the founding members of Alcoholics Anonymous.

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