In these unprecedented times where people are struggling with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Bordentown Rotary Club decided it was important to find a way to hold its third annual Rotary 4 Recovery event to help bring more attention to the issues people have involving addiction.
The Rotary Club held its annual event on Nov. 12 at Bordentown Beach where about 100 people came out to support the initiative and listen to a host of speakers, which included Bordentown City Mayor James Lynch and the Rev. Matthew Tucker of Christ Church Parish in Bordentown.
“We want to build a community of people that see addiction as a disease and come together to help those in need,” Bordentown Rotary Club Co-Chair Hillary Bilek said. “It’s one of the only events in the area where people can come and speak about addiction without judgement. Our community has been great in coming out for the events the Rotary Club puts on.”
Bilek has co-chaired Rotary 4 Recovery each of the three years.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic this year, Bilek said that the Rotary Club felt it was really important to stay connected with the community about addiction. Bilek said that addiction is more prevalent this year because of the pandemic than in years past.
“The pandemic has overshadowed addiction and it has become even greater because of it,” Bilek said. “We wanted to show our community that we are still here for them.”
Over the past three years, Lynch has been a big supporter of the Rotary Club’s initiative to fight against opioid addiction. The Bordentown City mayor has been involved with all three recovery events and believes the Rotary Club has made a “difference” in its actions on the opioid crisis in the Bordentown community and throughout Burlington County.
“The Rotary Club has gotten a lot of people’s attention and is making a difference in the community and the county,” Lynch said. “You have to acknowledge you have a problem and not be afraid to speak out about it. We all need to communicate about this problem and talk about it. We need to offer help when there is no help available. The Rotary Club has done a good job with that.”
In his speech to those in attendance, Lynch spoke about how law enforcement personnel in the Bordentown community offer help to those dealing with addiction. Lynch said that things are not like they were when he took office more than 32 years ago, when police officers would send people to jail for addiction and not try to seek help for the individual instead.
“Back then, it was just lock the person up and throw the key out,” Lynch said. “Now it is all about recovery and trying to help people.”
Lynch said that new mentality is how both the Bordentown Township and Bordentown City police departments are handling the situation, and he is very proud of that.
“Law enforcement is a partner in this initiative and they are here to help,” Lynch said.
One other individual that spoke at the event was a woman named Becky.
The Bucks County, Pennsylvania, resident gave a passionate speech relating to her own struggles with addiction to drugs and alcohol and how she was able to seek treatment, and is now over 14 years sober.
Lynch thought Becky’s speech was outstanding and really spoke to the community.
The event included those in attendance walking in a circle around Bordentown Beach three times to honor the 3,000 people in the State of New Jersey who have passed away due to an addiction to drugs this year so far.
In the two other years the event has been held, participants walked down Farnsworth Ave to honor those that had passed away from addiction and drug overdose that year and spread the word of addiction.
Bilek said the Rotary Club decided not to do that this year in order to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines and not spread harm to other people who were out and about in downtown Bordentown City.
They might not have been able to spread awareness for addiction as they have in the past, but Bilek believes the Rotary Club is doing the best they can right now during these tough times to break the stigma of addiction and to help those in need.
“It’s important to spread the word that you can beat addiction and survive it,” Bilek said. “We want to break the stigma of addiction.”