A call to 'faith communities' Volunteer: Leaders of One Church-One Addict effort call on local congregations to "adopt" an addict and offer the support needed to heal.

October 29, 1997|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

At a rousing interfaith breakfast yesterday, the national leader of the "One Church-One Addict" program and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend called on more Baltimore congregations to "adopt" a drug addict on the road to recovery.

The Rev. George Clements, a priest who won a MacArthur Foundation "genius" award for his social activism in Chicago, founded the program in 1994 as part of a White House offensive against drug use. Maryland and his home state of Illinois were the first to have pilot programs in which religious congregations volunteer to help people out of the quicksand of addiction.

"One church took one addict and led her to God," Trilvia Scott, a 34-year-old resident of East Baltimore, told the crowd of 150 at the Northwest Baltimore breakfast. After the meeting, she said her five children were "literally sleeping on the floor" when she had four addictions: to cocaine, heroin, alcohol and marijuana.

Members of New Bethlehem Baptist Church on North Carey Street gave her their home telephone numbers and helped find clothing, food and furniture, along with spiritually uplifting care.

"I feel delivered. I'm free," said Scott.

The stories of recovery she and others shared moved the crowd to cheers, tears and standing ovations, giving the gathering the flavor of a gospel revival. Some used biblical images such as the prodigal son, being left in the wilderness and the bonds of slavery to describe their experiences with drugs.

Townsend added her voice to the testimonials.

"I've seen drug addiction destroy my whole family. My brother [David Kennedy] died of a drug overdose and another [Robert Kennedy Jr.] was addicted to heroin for 15 years," Townsend said in an emotional delivery.

"Government doesn't touch the human heart. Only churches touch the human heart," she added.

The Rev. Damien Nalepa of St. Gregory the Great Roman Catholic Church in West Baltimore, who chairs the Maryland chapter of the national program, said he hoped to expand the number of "faith communities" participating. The number now is about 40.

Clements said that in the wake of the recent Million Women March and the Promise Keepers rally, "It's time to have a great celebration of sobriety. Baltimore, I challenge you to spark that."

Pub Date: 10/29/97

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