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DrugFree WilCo, along with the Thomas Tapley Foundation, held a drug awareness and prevention event Saturday at Pickett-Rucker United Methodist Church, where attendees learned about drug prevention, recovery and rehabilitation programs available throughout Middle Tennessee.

The event also featured nearly 150 boxes of free food donated to families, courtesy of Feed America First, along with dozens of hamburgers, ribs and chicken, which were provided as part of a barbecue cook-off.

The interior of Pickett-Rucker was packed with resources to help those dealing with addiction and a variety of entertainment for children.

Rebecca Dixon with Lebanon First United Methodist Church helped distribute the free food and said the combined efforts to help the community was a great opportunity for those in need and those with the means to help to connect.

“We are working with them to help feed 150 families here in Wilson County. Our mission is to help end hunger in Wilson County and this is how we’re trying to do that. People are very thankful – We’re not asking for any ID or any kind of verification. It’s just that we have food, and if you want some, we have some to give,” Dixon said. “We’re here at our sister church, Pickett Rucker, and we actually already had this scheduled to be at Lebanon First United Methodist Church, but when we found out that this was going on, we wanted to support our sister church and what they’re doing here with DrugFree WilCo in our community. So it was just a great idea to come out and join them.”

Regional overdose prevention specialist Trey Dees with the Williamson County Anti-Drug Coalition also gave a course on Naloxone, a medication used to treat emergency drug overdoses. Seventy-five people were trained on how to help someone who had overdosed, and each was given one nasal spray bottle of Naloxone.

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said the current efforts to tackle the opioid crisis in Wilson County were sparked by Lebanon resident Lisa Bass Tapley, whose son, Thomas, died from an overdose after a workplace injury.

“This organization started with the Thomas Tapley Foundation, and where Thomas and his cause that he’s got, you know, I have to praise them for being willing to step forward and to make a difference,” Hutto said. “So many times when bad things happen to us, we may just go back in a corner. We may just take care of ourselves, but Thomas, his cause, Ms. Tapley and her family, they reached out and said, ‘We want to make a difference on behalf of Thomas.’ So, Ms. Tapley, on behalf of this city and this county, we thank you for not sitting back and for making a difference.”

Pickett-Rucker United Methodist Church Pastor Michael Ruttlen said while the event was a great showing of support, their combined efforts just started.

“What we saw today was a full representation of our entire community. What we saw was inclusiveness. I even met a gentleman from Egypt, and he brought his children out, and I asked him to come back through for some cultural exchange, but we were able to give out information and to show them that we care instead of just saying it,” Ruttlen said. “We came together for a wonderful cause, to save a life and win a soul, and now we have to go into Project Reach. So we put out the bait today for everybody to come out and eat, and now it’s time to reach for them and let them know that we want to continue this relationship.”

Susan Shaw with DrugFree WilCo said despite the weather, they’ve helped people make connections that could save the lives of those struggling with addiction.

“My heart is warmed by everything that has happened today, and I have to say that yesterday we were so worried because of the prediction of storms right during this time. But people came out in droves, and it was so productive. They networked, and they met people, and they found treatment centers that people need. I’m really feeling really good about this, that DrugFree WilCo, in partnership with both of the churches, Pickett Rucker United Methodist Church and Lebanon First United Methodist Church and all the sponsors that participated. It’s just brought together so many different people from across the county,” Shaw said.

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