Faith Leaders Plan ‘Day of Hope’ in Wheeling To Battle Addiction Crisis

Announcing plans for West Virginia Day of Hope activities for Sept. 15 are, from left, Community Impact Coalition representative Martha Polinsky, Wheeling Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday, coalition chairwoman Vivienne Padilla, volunteer Lova Hitt, the Rev. Joel Richter and Rabbi Joshua Lief. Photo by Linda Comins

WHEELING — Several community-wide activities are planned Sept. 15 for Wheeling’s observance of West Virginia Day of Hope, an event dedicated to substance abuse prevention and recovery from addiction.

Youth Services System and the Community Impact Coalition are coordinating local events. Organizers announced plans for the fourth annual celebration during a press conference Thursday.

The Rev. Joel Richter, pastor of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Mozart, said this year’s theme is “Prevention.” He said houses of worship are encouraged to observe the day according to their own beliefs and missions.

Wheeling Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday called Day of Hope “a disrupter for good.” She views the observance as “a point of disruption in some of those negative choices” that people make regarding substance use.

“I am thankful to the Community Impact Coalition for constant, consistent work in the prevention world,” Scatterday said. “On behalf of the city, Mayor Glenn Elliott and the entire city council, I thank you for the hope that you bring.”

Free, public events will open at 1 p.m. with a 12-step interfaith service at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 1410 Chapline St. A March of Hope to the Veterans Memorial Amphitheater will begin at 2 p.m. After the walk, a Rally for Hope will take place at the amphitheater until 4 p.m.

Lova Hitt, coordinator for the March of Hope, said walkers will gather in St. Matthew’s parking lot, head north on Chapline Street and continue west on 12th Street to the Veterans Memorial Amphitheater at Heritage Port near the playground. She said the rally will feature speakers addressing addiction issues and providing information on treatment centers.

“I believe we’re being asked to pray whatever your faith is … for us to pray over our community,” said Hitt. “I believe that God hears the cry of our community.

“We will walk, talk and help one another through this terrible crisis,” she said.

Coinciding with the Day of Hope, a memorial spaghetti dinner will be held at Christ United Methodist Church, 1232 National Road, from 5-7:30 p.m. Sept. 15. Proceeds from the dinner will benefit the Will Ruberg Service Scholarship at Wheeling Jesuit University, House of the Carpenter and Community Made Serenade.

Individual faith communities may use Day of Hope resources from Sept. 14-16 to promote awareness and understanding.

Rabbi Joshua Lief of Temple Shalom, Wheeling, said the Jewish congregation will use the West Virginia Council of Churches’ Day of Hope liturgy during Sabbath services Sept. 14.

He said it is significant that the Day of Hope occurs on the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which in Judaism is “a time for reflection, introspection and resolution to make the new year the best one yet.”

Vivienne Padilla, chairwoman of the Community Impact Coalition, said Day of Hope started in Wheeling. The West Virginia Council of Churches became a partner in the project, which led to “massive growth in community participation” throughout the state, she said.

Martha Polinsky, the coalition’s senior project coordinator, thanked William Hogan, of Wheeling, for approaching four bishops in West Virginia to expand the observance. As a result, she said, “great collaboration” has developed with faith communities across the state.

Citing examples, Polinsky said the Rt. Rev. W. Michie Klusmeyer, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia, has asked congregations to be trained in the use of naxolone and to keep the opioid overdose-reversing drug in stock. She said the Rev. Sandra Steiner Ball, bishop of the United Methodist Church’s West Virginia Conference, has encouraged clergy to educate, raise awareness and discuss addiction-related issues.

Polinsky said the Most Rev. Ralph Dunkin, a retired Lutheran bishop and Wheeling resident, “has been instrumental in spreading the word to churches in the state” and chairs a Community Impact Coalition subcommittee.