Community Leaders Highlight Voices of Hope Recovery Banquet

This event is SOLD OUT as of 2/5/2020. Sponsorships are still available and silent auction items are deeply appreciated!

Voices of Hope’s 5th Annual Recovery Gratitude Banquet will feature community leaders who have made a monumental difference in the lives of Cecil County residents affected by the addiction epidemic. The event will take place Saturday, February 15, 2020 at Rosewood Farms in Elkton, Maryland. Tickets are $60 and will include dinner, silent auction and special speakers. This is Voices of Hope’s annual fundraiser to help local people overcome barriers to recovery from addiction in Cecil County. Here are the community leaders who will share how and why they take the road less traveled to help so many.

We are pleased to announce that our evening will begin with opening remarks from Robin Rickard, Deputy Director/Chief of Staff for Governor Hogan’s Opioid Operational Command Center.

Officer Jakob Brown

Officer Jakob Brown is a patrol officer who has been with the Elkton Police Department for 3 years. His trauma-informed approach to law enforcement has inspired individuals engaged in the criminal justice system to find hope for a new life in recovery. Ofc J.Brown was awarded Officer of the Year in 2018 for his police work and efforts in the community.  He continues to be a figure in the community for his upstanding work as an Elkton Police officer.

Linda Williams

Linda Williams is the current Executive Director at Addiction Connections Resource in Harford County. Linda lost her daughter Jessie in 2007. Her compassion and advocacy for people seeking recovery has helped many individuals in Cecil County to access treatment and supports. She has been working with substance users and their families since 1996. Linda was appointed the Governor Hogan’s Emergency Opioid and Heroin Task Force in 2015. She continues to make a real impact on saving lives throughout Maryland.

Richard Raftery

Richard Raftery is a Peer Advocate at the Cecil County Health Department. Since moving to Cecil County from Philadelphia, he has been an indispensable asset to families seeking treatment for their loved ones in our area. Richard goes above and beyond his position with the State of Maryland, meeting people on nights and weekends to be sure they have the transportation, treatment connections and recovery supports they need to improve their lives.

Chris Pederson

Chris Pedersen is a person in long term recovery originally from Cecil County. He is a father, an employee, a son and a brother. He gives back to the community by helping others find hope to recover from addiction. He uses his own personal experience to uplift individuals seeking recovery.

Dr. Niaz

Dr. Niaz has been a practicing physician for over twenty years, and during his career, he has had a particular interest in the treatment of addiction. He has treated Cecil County residents for opioid addiction and has made his services available to those in substance use crisis after hours and on weekends. He understands the urgency and life threatening situation of the opioid epidemic in Cecil County and gives his expertise as part of the solution.

Voices of Hope will also honor their Volunteer of the Year!

We are grateful for our Platinum sponsors for their generosity and support!

Check out our Facebook page for current Silent Auction items!

Call Voices of Hope at (443) 993-7055 for tickets and sponsorship opportunities. Ticket sales end on February 4 and no tickets will be available at the door. Voices of Hope, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)3 grass roots recovery community organization originating in Cecil County, Maryland.

VoH – Committed to Serve

Voices of Hope feels an obligation to address our community about the challenges we have faced and our continued commitment to serve.  The services offered by our newly established Crisis Center have been recently reduced due to the unpredictability of funding and need for coordinated efforts to address our overdose crisis.  I am the current Chief Operations Officer, lifetime resident of Cecil County and a person living in long term recovery.  I am a mom, sister, wife and neighbor who is proud to live here.

Voices of Hope is a non-profit 501(c)3 community based organization and one of the only Recovery Community Organizations in Maryland.  People in recovery, family members and recovery allies from Cecil County created this organization in 2013. Our passion came from the frustration of watching our families become decimated by the addiction crisis.  Our overdose rate was just below Baltimore’s, our suicide rate and child maltreatment rate led the state, and our resources were few.

Over time, we built a program to help people access recovery supports such as recovery housing and recovery education, and this work was supported entirely through donations and small local grants.   We added backpack harm reduction outreach in our most disadvantaged communities weekly, connecting people to health care and treatment through compassionate relationships. We distributed over 3,000 doses of Narcan since 2018, and we operate a Certification program to train people in recovery to get jobs in the healthcare profession.  More recently, we applied for big grants with the State and Federal government and we received foundation awards to support our work. We were primarily volunteer run up until 2017. These funds allowed us to hire over 25 local people, many of which are living in recovery. We are recognized as a leader in innovative substance use and disease prevention programs that have been built by grass roots efforts.  

We were excited about the Crisis Center request for proposal and the services it would provide to our community.  We were the only organization in Cecil County to apply. It funded a vision Voices of Hope already had and was actively pursuing.  During the 2 1/2 months that our Crisis Center was open, we helped 75 people access opioid use treatment and 140 people were referred to us.  Cecil County people received compassionate referrals to treatment providers, received transportation to services, and connected to peer and family supports.  Although the State adjusted our grant and we are continuing to work with the Health Department to reach a new contract, we will continue to provide Substance Use Peer Support 24/7 with adjusted available resources through contacting (443) 993-7055 .

Voices of Hope embraces evidence-based practices as outlined by the CDC for how a community can respond to the opioid crisis.  However, acceptance of these practices has been a challenge. Many supporters have asked, “How can we help?” Donations to support our mission are welcome and needed.  Additionally, we need to strengthen relationships with community partners. Support from law enforcement, local government and health care providers are needed to adequately address the overdose crisis of Cecil County.  More than just addressing the use of drugs, we need a community alignment to address our trauma from the effects of chaotic drug use and overdose deaths, build a recovery oriented system of care through coordination of resources and a structure that brings together prevention, early intervention, harm reduction, treatment, and the recovery community along with emergency responders, criminal justice and family preservation equally, encouraging all pillars to take their seat at the table. We need our politicians to be actively engaged with initiatives and invested in the success of our shared efforts.  Without this, we are swimming against the tide of addiction that faces us in Cecil County.

Please support your local non-profit.   If you know someone who has been helped by Voices of Hope, it is because someone donated to the cause and others volunteered in the effort.  We sincerely thank all of those who have donated and have given time and support to our organization. Our strength is the people of Cecil County who are dedicated to preserving our families and our future.  

Jennifer Tuerke

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!

Fighting for Families Recovery Banquet 2019

Voices of Hope invites you to attend our 4th Annual Gratitude Banquet on March 23, 2019 at NorthBay in North East, Maryland. This fundraiser is our opportunity to show appreciation for those who have made an impact on the fight for recovery in Cecil County. This year’s theme is “Fighting for Families” and will allow us to shine a light on individuals whose compassion is outstanding.

Our main speaker will be Judge Jane Murray, Associate Judge for the Cecil County Circuit Court. A graduate from Elkton High School and past Attorney for the Domestic Violence Program, Judge Murray understands the culture of our community and the challenges of families struggling for a new life in recovery.


Please join us in celebrating this year’s amazing honorees:

Jennifer LePore – for her selfless service supporting Voices of Hope and Healing Hearts – our overdose death grief support group.


Karen and her daughter Courtney, who passed March, 2011

Karen Prettyman-Bishop and Addiction Connections Resource – for compassionate and dedicated support of Cecil County people in recovery, notably the Mommy & Me Oxford House in Elkton.



Lorri Irrgang – with Maryland Coalition of Families, for going above and beyond to help Cecil County families struggling with addiction to find recovery supports and a voice for self advocacy.


Jack and one of his many close friends!

Jack Foraker – for being the “Rock of Sobriety” for Cecil County. Life-long resident of North East and currently Executive Director of Haven House, he has been a model of service and recovery for over 35 years.


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!

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!


Recovery Support in Maryland