If anyone’s tired of reading about what heroin has done to Manatee County, it’s Raul Hernandez.
But not only has the youth pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church read how the drug has taken over and was in-part responsible for at least 45 deaths in 2015, he’s seen it creep up to his church’s backyard.
A few months ago, he saw a few men hanging out in the church’s vast parking lot, located at 1305 43rd St. W. When they saw him approaching, they drove off, dropping their needles in the process.
A parent of a child in his youth group died from an overdose.
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And even closer to home, Hernandez and his wife have been for the past year fostering a child born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, in which a newborn withdraws after being exposed to drugs in the womb.
Because of all the things he’s seen his community go through, he’s organizing an event called Hope Against Heroin for Jan. 28.
“The whole idea is that it’ll be a hub in our community,” Hernandez said.
The event, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., will include a 5K run, a concert, a “farmer’s pantry” and a discussion panel from Centerstone of Florida, the behavioral health hospital that deals with mental health and addiction.
Entry fees are attached to the 5K run and one-mile walk — for the 5K it will cost $35 before the race and $40 the day of, and the one-mile walk is $20 for adults and $10 for children. Otherwise, the event is free.
Fifteen different organizations will set up tables to hand out information and answer questions such as those about heroin, addiction and how to get help. Hernandez said some of the money raised from the event will be donated to local organizations helping addicts.
Although the event’s page states the purpose is “to bring the hope of Christ to all people,” Hernandez said he didn’t want people to be discouraged to attend.
“It’s really not to push religion. It’s to encourage relationships,” he said. “It isn’t going to be a one-time deal.”
For more information on the event, those interested can visit hopeagainstheroin.org.
If you go
What: Hope Against Heroin community event
Where: 1305 43rd St. W.
When: Saturday, Jan. 28 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.