Starfish Project: Making A Difference, One At A Time

By Lynne Phillips
News Editor

Editor’s note: This is the second story in a series of three relating to the heroin problem in Huron County.

Huron County Sheriff Dane Howard spoke recently at a Living Life in Freedom Every Day (LIFE) group in Willard.

He spoke about the heroin problem in the county. He said, “The battle against drugs and addiction is a fight for lives.” He told the group there are reasons why our deputies are fighting to help people be safe.

“There is a great need for long-term, Christ centered life recovery program for local individuals who have life-controlling problems such as drug addiction.

“Huron County is experiencing a heroin epidemic resulting in tragic deaths, devastation and extremely high crime rates,” Howard stated. “Over 85 percent of the major crime committed in Huron County is heroin related.” He added, “Numerous deaths have occurred from drug overdoses and suicide in our local area due to drug addiction.”

There is hope. Hope in the form of the Starfish Project.

Starfish is another way to make a difference, according to Ron and Jeri, one of the teams involved in the project.

The Starfish Project, Inc. raises scholarship funds toward initial induction fees for Teen Challenge.

Teen Challenge is a 12 to 14 month residential program that provides help and hope for those who hurt. Their mission statement is “To provide youth, adults and families with an effective and comprehensive Christian faith-based solution to life-controlling drug and alcohol problems to become productive members of society. By applying biblical principles, Teen Challenge endeavors to help people become mentally-sound, emotionally-balanced, socially-adjusted, physically-well and spiritually-alive.”

A local Teen Challenge graduate shared this prayer. “God, I don’t know who You are or if You are real, but if You are out there, either help me or take me out of this world because I can no longer live like this.

“After seven years of drug abuse, I found myself at my bedside on my knees, crying out to God. I was addicted to drugs and had lost all hope of ever being able to get free from them. I had destroyed my life and put my family through so much. I wanted to die.

“God heard my cries for help and He answered them. Through some circumstances, I was introduced to Teen Challenge (TC). Through that program, I developed a relationship with God that has changed me and my life. It has not been easy but with that relationship with God and a new way of living, I learned through TC my life now has meaning and purpose. I thank God for the program as without it, I would not have made it.”

The Starfish project was created by concerned community members and pastors who hoped to be able to provide funding that would allow individuals with “life-controlling” problems, such as drug addiction, to participate in the Teen Challenge Program and obtain a healthy life of recovery and spirituality.

Ron and Jeri, team members of Starfish, work with people to get them into TC.

“We really believe in this project and are passionate about the people we work with. We believe Jesus is the answer,” she stated. “It doesn’t matter what faith you are or if you are religious or not, in TC you will get the ‘Jesus Factor’, ” Ron said. “If we didn’t believe in the program we couldn’t do what we do.”

“There are people on the street who want to go to TC, both males and females,” Jeri said. ”TC is not just for teens, although the programs accept as young as 16 (adolescent program), most of our folks are 18 and older.” She noted there are adolescent centers out there, but they are few. She said there are no adolescent programs in Ohio of which she is aware.

Starfish teams go into the Huron County Jail on Saturday mornings, according to Jeri. “We show a 20 minute DVD to give individuals an idea of what TC is about and pray with them.”

Individuals then have an opportunity to utilize a kiosk to put in a request to see members of an intake team that comes in Tuesdays where they are able to get more details about TC. The intake team will conduct an interview to see if the interested individual is an eligible candidate. Once the individual has been approved, the person writes a letter to the judge indicating their interest in TC and to see if it is an option for them. “It is all up to the judge,” Jeri stated. “We have no influence whatsoever with the judge.”

A second interview is when TC is contacted and someone from the program contacts the individual.

Huron County’s Starfish Project began in the spring 2010, according to Ron. The biggest obstacle to fund-raising for the project is awareness, Jeri said. “I think there are people who don’t know we are out there.”

Jeri said so far Starfish has helped to send 102 individuals to Teen Challenge.

The Starfish Project is based on the original story by Loren Eisley.

“One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.

“Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?’

“The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference.

“After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it back into the surf. Then smiling at the man, he said, “I made a difference for that one.”

Anyone struggling with a life-controlling problem and wants help contact one of the Starfish teams for information and assistance. Ron and Jeri 419-706-3710 or Laurie 419-706-1161.

To make a tax-deductible donation to the Starfish Project, Inc. visit the website: starfishproject-huron countyohio.org where there is a donation link or mail checks to Starfish Project, Inc. PO Box 272 Norwalk, OH 44857.

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