The Chamber of the Northern Poconos, October 5th, held their 2017 Community Awards dinner at the Inn at Woodloch. Once again, the Chamber took opportunity to recognize leaders who have served the community’s welfare; businesses that seek to protect the environment and the Business Persons of the Year.

LACKAWAXEN TWP. - The Chamber of the Northern Poconos, October 5th, held their 2017 Community Awards dinner at the Inn at Woodloch. Once again, the Chamber took opportunity to recognize leaders who have served the community’s welfare; businesses that seek to protect the environment and the Business Persons of the Year.

Joelee Motichka, Chamber board member, used the term “barn builders” to describe the sort of people the Chamber recognizes by these awards, persons who would care enough to pitch in and help rebuild the neighbor’s barn when the neighbor faces a need.

Community Achievement Awards went to two individuals and to a county-based team that have been dedicated to a common cause, the rescue of a growing segment of the population that has been absorbed by the drug culture, all too often leading to tragic deaths through overdose.

Gerald Margraf was honored as the founder of the Wayne County Heroin Prevention Task Force. This grass roots, no profit organization stated in 2014. Seeking to raise awareness of the heroin and opioid epidemic, Margraf worked with District Attorney Janine Edwards, state and local authorities, educators, medical professionals and law enforcement personnel.

The group meets monthly in various parts of the county. Their mission is to inform the population of the prevalence of the heroin epidemic, to teach them about the signs and symptoms, provide ways of treatment and to stop drug crimes in the area.

They have been facilitating training sessions in the use of Narcan, also known as Naloxone, an antidote to reverse the effects of an overdose. Persons completing the training receive certification and a free Opioid Overdose Reversal Kit.

The Task Force has also been busy picking up drug paraphernalia from parking lots and roadways, and discarding dirty needles.

“We know if we save even one life, it is worth it,” Margraf said. “…When we started this group there was no manual on how to fix the heroin epidemic. That is why we are doing what we do. We believe community is the answer.”

Suzie Calkin Frish also received a Community Service Award. She now serves as president of the Wayne County Heroin Prevention Task Force.

She spoke of how her son faced cancer, and survived; he fell into addiction, and found recovery. No one understood, and self-righteous opinions were harsh on them. She faced the stigma that families still encounter.

As a mother, she faced the hardest years she would probably ever encounter, she said.

She was researching for answers and met Margraf in Central Park, where he was selling t-shirts for the Task Force.

“Three years later it is obvious that our progress and process is being guided by something way bigger than we are,” she said. “We have traveled the county… and gone outside the county for opioid, heroin, drug education and awareness… Exhausting, not happy, very sad, yet very fulfilling.”

They now have almost 200 Naxalone kits in the community. Frish reported that in 2016, three lives in Wayne County were saved from overdose by administering this antidote.

The Hon. President Judge Raymond Hamill, Wayne County, accepted a Community Service Award on behalf of the Wayne County Drug and Treatment Court. This body offers non-violent offenders who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction, treatment in lieu of jail. The five phase program takes 36 months to complete, on average.

Judge Hamill stated that last year, 59,000 people in the United States died from overdose, more than the population of Wayne County. In Pennsylvania, 4,600 died from overdose. “In Wayne County we have lost more than a dozen people a year,” the Judge said. “Young people with their future ahead of them, with all the potential in the world, wiped out because of opioid addiction.

“We are just a small part of what we hope is part of the solution to this horrible scourge. We are very blessed in Wayne County to have elected officials and department heads who work together as a team…

“Recovery is possible for every person. We just have to work at it.”

He said the Drug Court began in July 2017 and right now there are three active participants, with three or four more ready to start. The team meets weekly. Participants are tested for drugs regularly and receive mental health services. For years, the Judge said, we have thrown people with drug addictions in jail without any treatment. Since the expansion of Medicaid, treatment is offered in prison.

Part of their recovery, however, is hope to readjust to society and find a job. The Judge urged the business community to keep this in mind. He urged employers to  learn the signs of drug addiction.

“We will be having people graduate from this drug treatment court after about 2-1/2 to 3 years…,” he said. “We will be looking for places where they can land on their feet and start a new life, with a job. We need your help. Because if they don’t have a promise or an opportunity to get back on their feet and contribute like they know they can and we know they can, we won’t be part of the solution.”

More awards

Green Business Awards were presented to Leeward Construction, and to The Cooperage Project for their environmentally-thoughtful conscious and practices. Business Persons of the Year Awards were presented to Chuck and Wanda Jurgensen, how founded Top Notch Distributors in Honesdale in 1975. Top Notch strives to be the foremost wholesale distributor in the architectural hardware industry. Top Notch has opened distribution centers as well in Missouri, Nevada and Massachusetts.

Certificates of recognition were presented by Senator Lisa Baker, Rep. Mike Peifer, Rep. Jonathan Fritz, and by Wayne County Commissioner Wendall Kay on behalf of Governor Tom Wolf.