VINTON, Ohio — On Saturday, members of the Gallia community gathered at the Field of Hope Community Campus at the old North Gallia High School to celebrate recovery, discuss the expansion of the organization’s mission, eat breakfast, and note the dedication of the nonprofit’s renovated gym.
“Field of Hope is just a piece of the puzzle (in addiction rehabilitative services),” Linda Phillips, Field of Hope’s program director, said. “It’s a community thing, too…All of you are pieces in the puzzle, too. Community connection is integral.”
Field of Hope is a faith-based nonprofit that focuses on drug and alcohol rehabilitative services. According to the organization’s executive director Amber Richards, “about 200 men and women came through the program” this year, and “two-thirds have completed the program.” At the celebration on Saturday, attendees shared stories and joy of recovery.
“I was close to death many times,” Geana Knowlton, a woman who graduated from Field of Hope’s program in May, said. “This place makes a difference every day in people’s lives because it is hallowed ground. It takes so much prayer…Today I move out of Field of Hope and step into my new apartment. I’m ready.”
Others congratulated those who have achieved recovery.
“I send a lot of women to Field of Hope,” Margaret Evans, Gallia County Common Pleas Court judge, said. “All we do is give you an opportunity to make a change. You’re the ones that make that change.”
“What has happened in this building is an image of what God is doing in the lives of these women,” Vinton Baptist Pastor Heath Jenkins said.
Speakers also placed emphasis on recovery as a victory achieved through community engagement.
“When I say congratulations, it’s to say congratulations to everyone in the community for their efforts,” Evans said.
Others echoed the sentiment, including Gallia County Sheriff Matt Champlin.
“I feel like we’re very blessed to live in Gallia county,” Champlin said. “I’m very thankful for the opportunities we have in this community. As law enforcement, a lot of communities have these connections.”
He added that addiction cannot be solved by just law enforcement or the courts.
“We can’t do this alone,” Champlin said. “The problems we face today aren’t a law enforcement problem or a court problem. They’re all our problems, we have ownership, and we must work together.”
State and national officials also spoke at the event. Ohio State Representative Jason Stephens and State Senator Bob Peterson expressed their support for Field of Hope, noting that they have “been able to put in capitol dollars to help” assist in the nonprofit’s mission. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted was supposed to make an address at the event but was unable to attend. Juli Stephens, a representative for U.S. Congressman Bill Johnson, spoke on behalf of Johnson.
“Congressman Johnson has been glad to support Field of Hope,” Stephens said. “He talks about Field of Hope so many places…He sends his thanks to all of you.” A video presentation also showed Johnson expressing his support for the organization.
Speakers also addressed the future endeavors of Field of Hope, including expanding its food pantry. According to Field of Hope’s Program Director John Jenkins, the nonprofit serviced about 500 people per month before the COVID-19 pandemic through its food pantry. Part of the food pantry expansion included the installation of multiple coolers and freezers and dedicating the south end of the building to the food pantry, where it will be permanently based by the end of the year.
Looking forward, Field of Hope also plans to extend its youth outreach.
“Field of Hope has always had a vision and role to provide prevention to the community with the belief that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure,” Shelly Sizemore, Field of Hope’s prevention program director, said. To further reach, the organization has begun to work with Gallia County schools and hopes to establish a mentoring program for at-risk youth.
The gym renovation is to play a large role in youth preventive outreach. Field of Hope CEO Kevin Dennis, Prevention Program Director Shelly Sizemore, Operations Manager Joe Sizemore, and Heath Jenkins led the dedication of the renovated gym.
Jenkins believes that the center will serve as a place where “prevention and divine intervention” will intersect.
Being a prevention center is “in our hearts,” Jenkins said. “I’m thrilled to dedicate this gym to prevention…It’s where lives are going to be saved and identities found.”
Dennis also unveiled Field of Hope’s next project: plans to construct a memorial for those who “have lost loved ones to addiction.”
“The plan is to have a memorial park,” Dennis said. “There’ll be a walking track, a wall of memory for those that have lost people to substance abuse…Then we’re going to have a sculpture that represents Jesus helping break the chains of addiction.”
Kevin Lyles, a sculptor and professor of art at the University of Rio Grande, who has worked on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., will design the sculpture.
“We’re really happy, thrilled and blessed to be a part of this memorial garden,” Lyles said.
Field of Hope serves southeastern Ohio
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Sharla Moody is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing from Gallipolis, Ohio. She is a graduate of River Valley High School and currently attends Yale University.