VERMILION — When Melva Sherwood, who lost her son to drug addiction almost a year ago, saw a man with his head in his hands sitting outside of a resource center for addicts who want to recover, she called the center’s co-founder, Kim Eberle.
“Kim said ‘I’m on it,’” Sherwood said, and within minutes Eberle had come to the man’s aid.
For Sherwood, the moment was emblematic of the larger Vermilion fight against drug addiction — a fight in which the entire community is involved.
Sherwood — along with other members of anti-drug abuse groups — discussed the community involvement at a vigil for drug addicts, recovering addicts and addicts who have passed.
The vigil was in Victory Park in Vermilion on Monday night and about 70 people attended to pray for those affected by addiction and discuss their own stories.
“We’re all in charge of each other’s children,” said Kathy Loos, who, like Sherwood, addressed the need for community involvement in the fight against drug abuse. Loos is the mother of a recovering addict herself and is a member of SOLACE, which provides support for family members of addicts.
The vigil began with the lighting of a single candle in honor of “active addicts” — those who are not yet in recovery for drug addiction. James Balotta, assistant superintendent of Vermilion schools, took the time to speak about random drug testing that the administration plans to conduct on students, faculty and staff to help prevent a younger generation from addiction.
The second round of candles was lit in honor of recovering addicts, during which a recovering addict named Brian told his story of 15 years of drug abuse.
The third round of candles was in honor of drug addicts who have passed. Sherwood took the stage to tell the story of her son who died as a result of drugs last October.
“I had a pretty charming boy,” she said, discussing how she watched her son change as he fell into a pattern of drug abuse.
However, it was some of Sherwood’s final words that summed up the evening best.
“We’re not alone,” she said, adding that she didn’t have the support system that she sees emerging in the Vermilion community today.
The vigil finished with a proclamation read by Vermilion Mayor Eileen Bulan, declaring Sept. 30 the “Light of Hope” day in Vermilion and urged community members to come together as a group to end the rise of drug abuse in the town.
As a final symbol, all vigil attendees lit sparklers rather than candles.
“These are a metaphor,” Sherwood said, “of the light and energy going into the community, saying that we’re going to fight.”