In this holiday season of reflection and gratitude, as I think back over the last 15 months as an AmeriCorps member in the United Against Opioid Abuse campaign, I am indebted to and grateful for the individuals, organizations and agencies that have been so supportive and willing to collaborate, working to make a difference in our county in the battle against substance misuse.

White County United Way: Nikie Jenkinson and her board had the foresight to convene local agencies and individuals to ask the question: What can we do about the substance use/opioid problem in our county? Because of this conversation, White County United Way obtained a grant to bring the AmeriCorps United Against Opioid Abuse initiative to our county. Thank you, Nikie and White County United Way board for taking the initiative to bring this program to White County.

First responders, government officials, criminal justice workers, and public servants at both the city and county offices: Thank you for the time you spent taking this rookie under your wings and bringing me up to speed about your work. You have offered guidance and wisdom. Thank you for the time you spent sharing your perspective on how drugs affect our county and what has been done, is being done and plans for the future. Thank you for sharing statistics and information to provide an accurate picture of what is happening. Thank you for graciously answering my calls and requests for information and data. You have been most generous with your time and patience.

IU Health White Memorial Hospital: Mary Minier and Melissa Dexter- Your partnership has empowered opportunities to provide information, meeting places, food, advice, and support for our work. Your help with grants and funding has continued the momentum, and your structural, institutional, and caregiving capacity to serve our community will continue to be an asset for all who need assistance.

Local media: To our local newspapers, thank you for publishing this column and sharing information with the community about the realities of substance use and its effect on people. As William Cope Moyers indicated, “local journalism remains the single most important way to inform and influence people in a community.”

To our new friends at WLFI, thank you covering stories related to our work and helping us get the word out. You always make us look good.

Local nonprofit, education, faith and service groups: Thank you for allowing me to sit in on your meetings and share information about what we are doing. Thank you for inviting me to speak with your members and share the many ways our work impacts the community at large. I am grateful to be a part of your groups.

Members of the United Council on Opioids: Thank you for joining the work and shouldering this task with us. Your input, experience, guidance, and hard work is making a difference and creating positive change.

Families of those in substance use: Thank you for sharing your stories and giving a face to the horror and devastation of watching a loved one self-destruct. Thank you for your courage, perseverance and love for these dear ones.

Friends in recovery: Thank you for your willingness to talk about your experience and offer hope to those still ensnared in addiction.

The North Central QRT: Thank you for coming to White County. You are a breath of fresh air to us and offer a way to reach people who are struggling with substance use, opening the paths to recovery.

Those still struggling with substance abuse: You don’t have to live this way. There are people who want to help. Don’t give up! Recovery is possible. There is hope! A great place to start is calling: 765-490-0381. Someone will answer 24/7. They have been where you are and can connect you to what you need.

To the readers of this column: Thank you for your comments, encouragement and readership. Your words have inspired me to continue.

To Chad: Thank you for planting this seed of an idea for these articles.

Mostly I am grateful for the friendships and relationships formed over the past 15 months. It has been an exciting year of learning, processing and representing White County in this important work. I have been deeply touched by your stories and experiences. I am humbled and grateful for this partnership and collaboration. Thank you for sharing this journey.

Lynn Saylor is an AmeriCorps member serving in the United Against Opioid Abuse Initiative through the White County United Way. She can be contacted at opioidinformation@gmail.com.