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Barb Reeves, a volunteer at the Beacon Recovery Community Center, left, wears the T-shirt that participants in this Saturday's Voices for Recovery event can get for the walk and celebration. With her are North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard and Susan Cross, prevention and recovery program associate with the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, holding a sign for the event.

'Voices for Recovery' Event Set for Saturday in North Adams

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Staff
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A sign on the lawn of North Adams City Hall advertises the event.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The bracelet on Susan Cross' wrist says it all: "Stamp out stigma."

Cross showed her bracelet to Mayor Thomas Bernard on Tuesday afternoon as she and Bernard chatted about the upcoming Voices for Recovery walk and celebration, set for Saturday, Sept. 21, from noon to 4 p.m. at Colegrove Park.

Cross is a prevention and recovery program associate with the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition; joining her and Bernard at City Hall was Barb Reeves, a volunteer at the coalition's Beacon Recovery Community Center, which is officially hosting the sixth annual event for the first time since its opening earlier this year.

Stigma, Cross said, has the ability to hinder a person's recovery efforts.

"Feeling the shame and guilt prevents you from getting the support you need," she said, adding that there is a common saying in the recovery community: "You are as sick as your darkest secret."

Lifting that stigma is one of the major goals of the Voices for Recovery event, which starts at noon in Colegrove Park with informational tables and family activities, continues at 1 p.m. with a ceremony of remembrance for those lost to recovery followed by a walk up Main Street to City Hall for a brief standout, then ends up back at Colegrove Park from 2 to 4 p.m. for a diverse lineup of inspirational speakers, including members from the faith community, representatives of organizations fighting addiction and others sharing their personal recovery stories. A food truck will be on-site with food available for purchase. T-shirts will be available for a requested donation; register online at the coalition's website.

One of the speakers will be Stephen Murray, a shift supervisor Northern Berkshire EMS, who will share his personal story of being in recovery for more than eight years and how that informs his job with the emergency medical services.

"He's never publicly told his story," Cross said. "He has chosen this event to tell a beautiful story of recovery. He's going to have wonderful words."

Both Cross and Bernard said the theme of the event, "Together We Are Stronger," emphasizes the need to share resources and build networks across the community and across the country to support the many paths to recovery. That's something they both said is emphasized at the Beacon Recovery Community Center, which is open for anyone to drop in Tuesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. and Wednesdays from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. at The Green inside 85 Main St.

The theme also reminds everyone that mental and substance use disorders affect all of us and that we are all part of the solution, because even if addiction hasn't touched you personally, it has touched the community as a whole.

"This is happening everywhere," Bernard said. "This is not a problem that's happening 'over there.' These are the people who make up our community."

And those people still need the help and support of the rest of the community, even as the numbers of overdose deaths have decreased slightly in the region — a reason for hope, Bernard said, but not "a cause for complacency."

Still, like with many other awareness walks and events, the goal is to eradicate the need for such an event in the future — a sentiment Bernard remembered hearing at a previous walk.

"The vision for the event is that you don't have to have this event anymore," he said.

Tags: addiction recovery,   substance abuse,   voices of recovery,   

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