Overdoses will bring Toronto together for rally

PLANNING RALLY — Volunteers with the “Off with the Cuffs” program are planning a rally Saturday at the Misty River Marina in Toronto. The program is aimed to allow addicts the opportunity to attend rehabilitation and counseling as opposed to going to jail. Involved in the program are, from left, Toronto Councilman A.J. Hunt; Toronto Police Officer Anthony Porreca; Toronto Coalition for Revitalization President George Komar; co-founder Robin Leasure; marina owners Doug and Dave Dock; Jerilee Saling; Susan Clegg; coalition director of community outreach Kris Grimm; and co-founder Carrie Nett-Shaffer. -- Julie Stenger

TORONTO — The number of drug overdoses continues to rise locally and that has prompted one local woman to aid addicts in getting the help they need.

City resident Robin Leasure’s faith in God is strong, so when Carrie Nett-Shaffer approached Leasure, registered nursing manager of Healthways, and asked if she could help Shaffer’s son get assistance, Leasure and Shaffer began the faith-based, nonprofit program known as, “Off with the Cuffs: Hope Over Addiction.”

Its mission is to advocate long-term residential treatment over incarceration for those facing jail time due to problems with addiction and to help families find appropriate rehabilitation for every situation.

The Toronto Police Department stands behind the women and encourages the community to attend the rally to be held from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Misty River Marina, 1200 North River Ave.

“We need to work together as a community to help those who need help,” explained police officer Anthony Porreca. “As an officer, I see the same people get out of jail and repeat their addiction. We need to get them real help. They need in-patient rehab because that is their best chance at breaking that addiction.”

The number of local overdoses is what inspired Leasure to find a way to help those addicted to drugs. She explained her desire to begin a program started with a pink urn. She said in that urn was someone’s child who had died as a result of drugs. Every morning that mother would wake up and look at that urn, and it broke Leasure’s heart that a life had to end tragically when there should have been a place or someone to turn to.

She noted that when Shaffer approached her seeking help, the two decided to begin the program and quickly others became involved.

Leasure said she has many ideas and is working with many local and state officials on making the program a success.

Saturday’s rally lineup is as follows:

¯ Opening ceremonies, 11 a.m.

¯ The Rev. Raul Diaz, 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

¯ Extreme Vocal Experience, 11:30 to 1 p.m.

¯ Richie Coburn performing, 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

¯ Bethany James singing, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

¯ Joe Snider, singing and testimony, 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

¯ Speakers Don Clarke of Clarke Funeral Homes, Clark Crago from TEMS, Bill Scheel of Toronto Fire Department and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Renforth, 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

¯ Josh Lytle, Family Care Ministries, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

¯ Open mike, 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

¯ Buffington Brothers Band, 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

¯ Fireworks display at conclusion of rally.

Free hot dogs will be served.

The Toronto Coalition for Revitalization is working with Leasure and Shaffer, among others.

The group’s director of community outreach, Kris Grimm, stated the group needs to make the public aware.

“This is a big epidemic, not only here, but nationwide as well. Kids need this awareness and it is up to us to teach them. It’s about so much more than just saying ‘no,'” Grimm said.

For information, call (740) 538-5321.