The Have Hope Initiative's goal is to provide support for victims of addiction and raise awareness of the dangers of drug abuse.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — After the sudden, tragic death of her friend, Rebecca Pero Dodge wanted to make sure her life wasn't lost in vain.
"I had to keep my mind occupied and say to myself, 'What can I do about this?'" she said.
Hope Benoit, a 22-year-old 2009 McCann Technical School graduate, died on Sept. 5.
The next day, Dodge starting the Have Hope Initiative
on Facebook, a group that skyrocketed to about 2,000 members in its first two weeks — and is now more than 2,700. There is also a Facebook page
"It's amazing, it's really humbling to see how many people support the initiative," Dodge said.
Since then, the group evolved beyond Facebook and risen to a new level for substance abuse awareness and prevention.
"People don't want to turn a blind eye, it's an epidemic," Dodge said.
On the initiative's website, www.HaveHopeInitiative.com
, a listing of substance abuse help lines, support groups and medical facilities is available.
Dodge has been working with Mayor Richard Alcombright, local law enforcement and Northern Berkshire Community Coalition to raise further awareness and to address the problem.
"This is an unfortunate incident that happened to a young woman that had a bright future," said North Adams Police Director Michael Cozzaglio, who hopes the initiative can help save lives.
In the short term, the recently created Have Hope Initiative's core committee aims to raise awareness, especially in local schools, to fund raise to create new programs for education and support, and to attract volunteers to provide rides to recovery meetings.
Awareness events are set up in the coming month to raise awareness. More than 30 marchers participated in the Sea of Hope
in the Fall Foliage Parade on Sunday, Oct. 6. The Northern Berkshire Community Coalition will sponsor a candlelight vigil at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24, at Noel Field's track in remembrance of those who lost their lives after a struggle with addiction or in a related incident.
Polish National Alliance in Adams will host a benefit show for the Have Hope Initiative on Friday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m., with Phil N The Void performing. Admission is $5.
The long-term goal is to open a house called "Hope Haven." Dodge's vision includes 24-hour on-staff counselors and peer support, as well as beds for detoxication and transitional support for sober and clean living.