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Cecil County Overdose Candlelight Vigil 2019

Voices of Hope and Healing Hearts will host a candlelight vigil service on International Overdose Awareness day, August 31, 2019. This is the 6th annual gathering of families and loved ones at the Gilbert Lighthouse Pavilion at the North East Community Park. From 6:30 pm until sunset, families are encouraged to attend and decorate a luminary for free. There will be crafts for children to create and take home. Rob Robinson will play an acoustic set that will accompany the river backdrop. There will be speakers and an opportunity for to share about the life of their loved one, if so moved.

Jourdan Creations is offering T-shirts for $20 that include your loved one’s name and photo for this event. This is not a fundraiser. Please call (410) 920-3290 to order.

Healing Hearts is an Overdose Death Grief Support Group held at the Voices of Hope office at 224 E. Main St. in Elkton every other Wednesday. The next meeting is Wednesday, August 21, 2019 at 6:30 pm. All are welcome.

Cecil County lost 57 people in 2018 to overdose. We have had led the state with the most amount of overdoses per capita for the past several years, behind Baltimore City. Voices of Hope strives to end overdose deaths. We advocate for the dignity and respect for families who are struggling with addiction and those who lost the fight in Cecil County.

Raising money, Saving lives

Our 4th Annual Gratitude Banquet “Fighting for Families” was a huge success! Thank you to our honorees and Judge Murray for an insightful speech. Tommy Taylor received the surprise Spirit of Recovery Award. Recovery Centers of America presented Voices of Hope with our own plaque award for our work with harm reduction in the community! We raised over $5,500 for recovery housing and special needs for Cecil County people seeking or maintaining their recovery. Our 2018 banquet raised about $2,000 so we are thrilled with this growth. Thank you for the over 250 people who purchased or donated tickets, all of our sponsors and those who gave some very amazing items for our silent auction.

For pictures of the event, click this link.

We are continuing our outreach efforts with over 1,791 encounters so far in 2019. We have given out 352 safe use kits, 316 safe sex bags and 291 Narcan kits. Many of our encounters include conversations about health, prevention, treatment and support. Several have resulted in access to treatment, reaching a few who have been struggling on the streets of Elkton for a long time .

Voices of Hope was one of 9 local organizations that participated in the UNSHELTERED International Resource Clinic at Hollingsworth Manor on April 6. This faith-based event offered reading glasses, birth certificates, haircuts, Bibles, lunch and more to the over 334 attendees (not including volunteers!). VoH provided Narcan training and connections to treatment and community recovery supports. Click here to see pictures and data collected of the event.

We continue to offer Narcan training, volunteer opportunities and recovery supports to the community. Sometimes that is sending Peer Recovery Specialists to funerals to provide support to families and friends of those who we have lost to addiction or related to substance use. Last week, our Peers attended 4 funerals in 6 days. At one funeral, a relative of the deceased had to be revived with Narcan. We are grateful to have been there to help. The trauma of experiencing such grief and despair takes its toll on all our Peers. We are seeking ways to increase emotional supports to our volunteers and employees. Your prayers are welcome. Donations to our cause is deeply appreciated!

For the latest events, keep an eye out on our Facebook page! There are many trainings and opportunities that are offered only to those who have completed our Volunteer Orientation. Stay involved, make a difference!

Meet Aaron W. – Voices of Hope Peer Recovery Specialist

All of our Peers have a story to share. Although most include a level of despair and struggle, each is unique in pathway of recovery and message of hope. Each story is important and hold lessons we all can learn from as individuals and systems that support change. Aaron is one of our Peer Recovery Specialist leaders. He uses his experience, strength and hope combined with training to provide recovery outreach and support to people in Cecil County, MD. Here is his personal story of change and the moments that led him to seek long term recovery.

Aaron’s active addiction led him to being homeless in Kensington, PA. While homeless, he was receiving methadone treatment for over 2 1/2 years. He had been on methadone before, it was helpful to keep his life as stable as it was. One day at the clinic, he was told that his girlfriend just overdosed and died that morning. His girlfriend was receiving methadone at the clinic, too, but had stopped about 2 weeks earlier. Soon after, she had returned to using heroin. Aaron recalls the morning that she died, “I just couldn’t feel. What I did feel was anger – anger that she died and I was still alive.” He made a decision that he must change. He went to his methadone provider and told them he wanted to come off of the medication. His counselor told him that he could be weaned off the methadone at 2 mg. increments a week. His current dose was 90 mg. – that would be 180 weeks! That was discouraging for Aaron. The counselor told him, “If you were to not show up for your dosing for 3 days, we would only be allowed to start you back at half dose – 45 mg. But I didn’t tell you that.” Aaron felt blessed to have someone who cared about what he wanted and was willing to look the other way to help him come off the medication.

In desperation, he reached out to his mother and begged her to take him in and help him detox off of the methadone. His mom lives in Rising Sun. She came to get him. He bought Xanax off of the street to help him with the withdrawal symptoms. Together, they made a plan for him to return to Pennsylvania to use his insurance to get into treatment. His mother dropped him off at a hospital in Kensington with their agreement that he would get treatment or stay in PA. “All I had was $40 and layers of all the clothes I owned on my body.” The intake nurse at the hospital told him that they could not admit him into detox for prescription drugs. The nurse told him, “If you left and came back with something else in your system, we could take you in. But I didn’t tell you that.” Here was another person going outside the lines to help him on his path to recovery. He took the last of his money and bought PCP and 2 bags of heroin. He went down an alleyway and prepared the drugs. “It was so cold, a day in January, every time I cooked the heroin up in the cooker, it froze before I got a chance to use it. I was so frustrated and desperate. I remember sitting there, taking off all my layers of clothing to get to a vein. Then I noticed a woman walking down the alley past me. She was holding hands with 2 young children. As they walked by, a girl, about 5 years old, looked at me, right into my eyes. In that moment, reflected in her eyes, I saw the piece of shit I really was. The junkie in an alleyway, an absent father to my children, half naked in the cold, the animal I truly was. It rocked my soul.”

After using once more, Aaron returned to the hospital and spent 3 days in a chair, detoxing in a large room with other people seeking treatment. Afterwards, his mother picked him back up. “I just wanted to sleep and take it easy but my mom refused. She placed a 12-step fellowship meeting list in front of me. She told me that I could stay there every day that I went to a meeting. I was willing when she put it that way.” Aaron said he was nervous to attend the meeting by himself, his anxiety was so intense. His mother agreed to go to the first meeting with him. He went to one in Elkton on Saturday night. “When I got there, a lady named Stephanie introduced herself and gave me a hug.” Remembering this, Aaron spoke with tears in his eyes, “She just hugged me. It was a real hug, one that said she understood and it was going to be all right. I have been going ever since.” Aaron recently celebrated 4 years in recovery, which means to him, not taking a drink or drug to get high or to treat the disease of addiction.

Aaron shares his feelings about working with Voices of Hope: “What I give back is so little compared to what I received. For 26 years, I lived in darkness. I prayed that Narcan would not work anymore. I don’t want anyone to feel that. People feel so alone with the fear and guilt, they feel like no one can understand.” For Aaron, his mom and Stephanie were a source of unconditional love, a beacon of hope. Now, he has become a source of hope for others. His personal experience allows him to connect with others when they are at their lowest.

Aaron has been a lead Peer Recovery Specialist on our Hope Street weekly outreach team, committed to Hollingsworth Manor, primarily. He talks with people about staying alive, accessing treatment and recovery supports. He is an advocate for many pathways of recovery, including MAT. He also performs Overdose Survivor Outreach for Voices of Hope in cooperation with the Alcohol & Drug Recovery Center at the Cecil County Health Department. He is actively involved in the recovery community in Cecil County. We are blessed to have him here.

Listen to Aaron’s interview on our YouTube Channel!

Do you need someone to talk to about you or your loved one’s addiction? Want to know the options? Call Voices of Hope at (443) 993-7055 today.

Who Have We Reached in 2018?

Voices of Hope is an organization made up of people in recovery, along with family members and allies who support recovery. We have been working together to advocate and build recovery supports in our community since 2013. This year has been our busiest ever. Your donations of time, talents and treasures have made results that we are proud to report. We hope to inspire community members to continue to support us, or maybe give for the first time.

We have three main initiative where we focus our efforts.

  • Outreach – going into the communities and neighborhoods that are hardest hit by this epidemic.
  • CPRS Academy – providing training to our members so they are best informed to provide help to others, as well as creating a career path for those in recovery who often times face barriers to employment.
  • Fundraising – raising money to overcome barriers to treatment and providing funding for recovery housing to people in early recovery.


We began most of our official outreach programs in October, 2018. Our approach is based on harm reduction, reducing overdose deaths and addressing the various other health issues that plague our communities. We are also a connection to recovery for them if they decide to ask for help. Hope Street, our backpack outreach program, provides health resources and builds recovery relationships in our most disadvantaged areas: Hollingsworth Manor, Lakeside Trailer Park, Winding Brook and Downtown Elkton. Our Homeless Outreach provides peer support and engagement at Paris Foundation, the Mary Randall Center and everywhere in-between. Our Overdose Survivor Outreach engages people who survive an overdose at their homes and with their families. Here is our data from October 1 through December 22, 2018:

  • 484 Connections (conversations and engagement)
  • 178 Safe Use Bags given (wound care, clean supplies, resources)
  • 121 Safe Sex Bags given (condoms, dental dams, resources)
  • 102 doses of Narcan given
  • 53 Discarded syringes collected
2018 VoH town hall

103 people attended 6 Town Hall meetings that we held throughout Cecil County. At these Town Halls, we invited local people to talk about their own recovery, the strengths that support recovery and some barriers that we would work together to overcome.

Healing Hearts Overdose Death Grief Support Group formed in March, 2018 and meets every other week. This group is for the families and friends of our neighbors who have lost someone they love to addiction. We are a place to grieve openly, when you want, how you want, with people who understand.

70 people attended Financial Capabilities classes held throughout the year, teaching people new in recovery or anyone interested how to better manage finances.

668 people attended various activities hosted by VoH: our Gratitude Banquet, Adopt-A-Hwy clean ups, Memorial Day cook out, etc. These events help promote the positive effects that recovery has on the entire community. When people recover, so do their families, friends and neighbors.

Certified Peer Recovery Specialist Academy

1st VOH Outreach Volunteer Trainees June, 2018

74 people attended 4 Recovery Volunteer Army Trainings that introduced Cecil County statistics on drug use and overdoses, domestic violence, abuse and neglect. Training was given on principles of trauma-informed care and harm reduction to people interested in helping their neighbors. These trainings are given free of charge. Attendees were invited to sign up to a VoH volunteer outreach team.

Recovery Advocates
CPRS Academy training 2018

282 people were trained in courses that gave CEUs for the Maryland Certified Peer Recovery Specialist Credential. Courses included Recovery Coach Academy, Trauma-Informed Care for Peers, Harm Reduction for Peers, Recovery Messaging and Mental Health First Aid for Adults and Youth. We believe each student is better capable of carrying the message of recovery to those who suffer at any stage of sickness or in a crisis.


$2,508 was given to residents seeking recovery supportive housing in Cecil County as they left treatment, or to continue their housing during periods of difficulty. We also were able to provide transportation to treatment for people who had no other way to get there.

We believe that addiction and recovery is a health issue. By providing our community with the tools and information to stay alive and access treatment, we will lower the number of deaths by overdose. By providing safe use and safe sex equipment with resources, we will prevent infections that are costly to treat and can be barriers to recovery. By keeping people alive and out of jail, we will keep families together and reduce the trauma and cost of providing care for children living without their parents. By providing Narcan to people who use drugs, we are empowering people to save each other, more often.

Mark on Hope Street Outreach

Our volunteers and employees are people who are in recovery or family members of people in recovery. We reflect all pathways of addiction and mental health recovery and are passionate about the people of Cecil County, Maryland. We care and will go above and beyond to help someone seeking recovery. Our problem here is big and it will take big hearts to make the difference.

If addiction has touched your life or someone you love, please consider giving what you can to our mission: Attend a Volunteer Orientation and join a team that works with your schedule. Donate funds that will be used to purchase Narcan and contribute to someone’s safe place in recovery. Reach out to us and be a face and voice of recovery in a video or story of hope. Thank you!

Meet Our New Executive Director

Lisa Nurnberger has survived incredible odds to find recovery in Cecil County.

Lisa is originally from Elizabeth, NJ.  She was born with multiple health complications including spina bifida.  As a result of the constant care required to keep her alive, her young parents surrendered their parental rights when she was under a year old.  She was cared for by a foster family who was finally able to adopt her when she was 10.  Lisa struggled with her mental and emotional health while she was growing up and learning to live with her physical limitations.  There were conflicts and rebellion that made life tumultuous for her and her family.  Drinking and doing drugs were a part of her coping process.  Things really got worse after September 11, 2001.  Lisa was working on the 72nd floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center when the first plane hit. Several people carried her down all the stairs to get out of the building and survive.  “Afterwards, I had survivor’s guilt.  I felt like I should have died, too.”

The road to recovery began in Cecil County.  “I was living in North East and found myself on the 4th floor of Union Hospital after a deep depression.  Upon discharge, I attended therapy at Upper Bay.  I was looking for support and attended different 12-step fellowships in the area until I found one that fit me.”  Lisa is active in a fellowship that focuses on recovering from the impact of surviving in dysfunctional family systems.  She has found hope and purpose in recovery and wants to share it with others.

Lisa speaks openly about her experiences for audiences, recently at a World Convention of her fellowship in Canada.  She has been a volunteer with Voices of Hope for about 2 years and is very close to achieving the Maryland Certified Peer Recovery Specialist credential.  She has an Associates Degree and 2 Bachelor Degrees.  She is excited to take on this new role at Voices of Hope with the guidance and support of her friend and past Executive Director, Nicola Barteau.  “I am excited to see Voices of Hope grow to be the name people associate with recovery in Cecil County and even in the state, as we are in the forefront of helping people.  My point of view is that we have been there, we understand, even with different recovery pathways, we still relate.”

See Lisa’s recent VoH interview on our YouTube Channel.

There are a lot of changes happening at Voices of Hope as we grow to meet the challenges of supporting those who struggle with behavioral health disorders and their families.  In this process, the role of Executive Director has demanded more undivided attention to face those challenges.  In response, our beloved ED, Nicola Barteau, helped us to select one of our dedicated and qualified volunteers as our new Executive Director.  Responsible for executing the direction of our Board of Directors, Lisa connects with the operations of Voices of Hope, primarily through our Chief Operations Officer, Jennifer Tuerke. Please meet Lisa, our volunteers and employees at our Holiday Open House on December 21, 2018 from 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm at 224 E. Main St. Elkton, MD  21921.

Hope Street Outreach: Giving Back by Reaching Out

Our outreach teams believe in the transformative power of recovery.  Our lives have been forever changed by this power.  Hope Street is our action of gratitude:  reaching out to addicts, offering relationship, information, resources and recovery.  Leading up to Giving Tuesday, Voices of Hope wants you to know how your donation is investing in our community response to the addiction epidemic in Cecil County.  One way is through funding supplies, training and coordination of our Hope Street Outreach.  This team’s focus is building helping relationships in the communities that need it most.  We talk and relate to people as equals.  Our mission is to give hope that recovery is possible for all.  Team members have been trained in harm reduction principles, trauma informed care and local treatment and recovery support organizations.  Many friendships have been made and community trust in Voices of Hope as a helping organization is growing.

Teams of two go out routinely every week in Hollingsworth Manor, Lakeside Trailer Park, Downtown Elkton and Winding Brook.  Teams include people who live and recover in these neighborhoods.

In October, Hope Street made 127 connections in 22 walks.  2 sex workers in Elkton were connected to treatment and recovery supports in our first week.  We offer information on how to get into treatment, 12-step meeting information and crisis hotline numbers.  We also give  the walk-in treatment times for the Health Clinic at the Cecil County Health Department.  We know that giving information and encouraging people who use drugs to seek prevention and treatment will lower infections and Hepatitis C transmission.  People will find recovery.  Families will be saved.

Your funds pay for pamphlet printing, condoms, safe use and wound care supplies, needle collection equipment (we clean them up on the street) and for the purchase of Narcan.  By distributing Naloxone to the people who use drugs and their families, we believe the number of overdose deaths will decrease.

Please support Voices of Hope as your charity of choice this Giving Tuesday.  Your investment makes Cecil a safer place to live and raise our children.  Thank you!


Grateful for Recovery!!!

Happy Thanksgiving from Voices of Hope!  We pray that you are well, that your loved ones are safe and you look forward to another good day.  Thanksgiving gives an opportunity to count our blessings and we are grateful for you, our supporters, who believe that recovery is possible.  You invest in the solution.  We are grateful for our volunteers who carry the message that no addict need ever die.  Volunteers, like Tonya, show up, reach out and give the hope that anyone has the power to change their own lives if given information, resources and support.  Our volunteers give time, talent and passion – we know that freedom is possible and we want to share it with families and those who still suffer.  We know that Cecil County can become a place that fosters recovery, making it a better place to live for our neighbors, families and children.   If you, or a family member, need help finding treatment or recovery support, reach out through our Facebook page or call us (443) 993-7055.  We are here for you.


Camp Educators Complete Youth Mental Health First Aid Training

Voices of Hope facilitated Youth Mental Health First Aid training for educators at North Bay on Monday, October 15, 2018.  Training and books were supplied through the Maryland AWARE grant that strives to equip people who interact with adolescents with this helpful training.  Mental Health First Aiders are trained to be able to assess a crisis and how how best to help.  They were given suicide and mental health crisis resource information.    Although North Bay has an effective system of addressing and supporting students in crisis while at the camp, this training equipped educators on how to provide mental health first aid in their families and communities.

If you are interested in having Mental Health First Aid course provided to your organization or community in Cecil County, please email us at