TORONTO - The Rev. Raul Diaz, pastor of the Cornerstone Church, said he believed he had to do something in the community after witnessing drug activity in his neighborhood.
"I attended nine funerals within the past year," said Diaz during an anti-drug and alcohol assembly April 18 at Toronto High School. "Six of (the deaths) were drug-related. When the parents come up to me and ask 'Why?' what am I supposed to tell them? That (their son or daughter) died because they were trying to be cool?"
Diaz said he and others in the church are tired of witnessing drug activity in the city and its damage caused to city youth, and that is the catalyst for beginning a program aimed at those either abusing drugs or close to someone who is suffering from addiction.
"We just had our first meeting at the church April 16," said Diaz, adding the church is at 423 Clark St. and meetings will continue at 7 p.m. every Monday. "These are going to be targeted at those with addiction problems or are co-dependent.
"We're going to educate (those attending) with the tools we have - the word of God," continued Diaz. "We want to give these people hope and a way out through God."
Diaz, who is leading the meetings along with his wife Deneen and Dave and Robin Leasure, said he wanted to do something after witnessing a drug deal on his street involving what he believed were juveniles. Diaz said he's not a counselor, but he believed he had to act. The program will use a Christian-based structure, he added.
"We're definitely going to have a curriculum," he said. "We're in the process of marketing the program now. The Holy Spirit will bring the people to us."
Diaz, who grew up in Hoboken, N.J., said he's concerned about drug and alcohol abuse in the city, and he's witnessed the destruction caused by addiction first-hand.
"I'm going to be sharing my experiences," said Diaz. "I want to be real. I think telling my story will help bring comfort to others (suffering from addiction)."
Diaz said the first meeting drew seven people, and "it wasn't even advertised. It was all through word of mouth. I know people will come to the meetings. We want to do something in this community. We want to bring inner healing through the word of God."
For information obout the program, call (740) 537-9804.
(Miller can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)