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March, rally against heroin Saturday in Vermilion


VERMILION — A community group formed to combat the crippling drug epidemic that is rippling through so many Ohio cities is sponsoring a march against addiction this weekend.

We Care Vermilion, a nonprofit grass-roots organization started recently to “lessen the stigma of addiction and connect addicts to resources” is sponsoring the march and community rally, said Josh Budka, senior pastor and youth group leader at Trinity Gospel Church in town.

The group began after a local man, Rickie Jaworski, started a protest in January outside the town’s Burger King, at a highly visible spot at the top of a rise on Vermilion’s main street. Jaworski hand-wrote a sign saying “END HEROIN TURN IN YOUR DRUG DEALERS” and held it up for days at the intersection after learning that his cousin had died in Lorain, just a few feet from where he had purchased heroin.

It was the fourth friend he had lost since the start of the year, and it was only Jan. 13.

Soon, he attracted a following.

Budka, Jaworski’s friend and pastor, was the dead man’s brother-in-law. Budka and others from his church and from the community, all with their own stories to tell, showed up with their own signs and stood at the corner, waving their messages at passing drivers.

After a few weeks the protesters stopped gathering there but efforts to help addicts didn’t. A Facebook page was started for We Care Vermilion. An informational meeting Feb. 12 drew more than 100 people and plans were made for the Love Over Addiction march and rally this week. School, city and police officials attended, along with agency representatives.

“The idea is to get everybody — the police, city officials, school administrators, churches, everybody — working in conjunction to bring about solutions,” Budka said. “The idea is to not let people fall through the gaps. We’re there to do more than just hold up signs, but to give solutions.”

The community is invited to gather 1 p.m. Saturday at Harbourtown Foursquare Community Church, 873 State St., Vermilion. The march will leave from the church to the former protest spot at the Burger King on Liberty Avenue. The march will then return to the church, where a rally will be held with guest speakers from different agencies and several informational tables offering resources to those affected by addiction.

Some of the agencies represented will include Lorain County Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, the Vermilion police, Bayshore Counseling, Lorain County Recovery Court, several area motorcycle clubs and support groups for recovering addicts and parents of addicts. Many agencies represent communities from Sandusky to Lorain.

Overdose deaths have skyrocketed in Erie and Lorain counties in the past few years, and Vermilion straddles both. Between 2004 and 2014, national statistics show Ohio had a 150 percent increase in fatal overdose deaths.

“I think the problem is just as severe everywhere, but we just desire to hold our ground where we are,” Budka said. “We desire to stretch from Lorain to Sandusky. We hope to go bigger, but that’s our stretch right now. The whole premise of We Care is a response to a lot of people saying ‘nobody cares.’ But yes, we do care. We care enough to do more than stand out here and protest, but to bring in resources. There is a lot of support here, and we want to bring them to the table.”

For information, visit the We Care Vermilion Facebook page.

Contact Rini Jeffers at 329-7155 or rinijeffers@gmail.com.

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