A preacher and the leader of a program for recovering drug addicts will talk about how their town of Manchester, Ky., was transformed from part of the Pain Killer Capital of the Nation to the City of Hope at Awake 2012 Arise.
The Christ-centered men's event will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Jaffa Shrine Center, Broad Avenue and 22nd Street, Altoona.
Pastor Doug Abner of City of Hope Community Fellowship and Steve Collett, a leader of Life Line (a drug rehabilitation program), live in Clay County, an area of eastern Kentucky once known for violence, drugs and murders.
(Courtesy photo) Residents of Clay County, Ky., take part in a march in 2004 that marked the beginning of taking back from their communities where drugs and violence crimes were prevalent. Churches began working together and now most of them offer programs to help people with addictions. Two men from Manchester, Ky., will talk about the transformed area at the Awake 2012 Arise men’s event to be held at the Jaffa Shrine Center. It is sponsored by the Altoona Lighthouse Men’s Ministry.
"One or two people a week in our county were dying," Abner said of the community's situation about nine or 10 years ago. Then from about 2006 to 2009, "we went for three years without any drug overdoses or murders."
Their presentations will be prefaced by a talk by the Rev. Timothy G. McGarvey, pastor of Altoona Alliance Church for 14 years.
McGarvey said he will talk about being fit for God. He said that Joshua is recorded as saying in Joshua 24:15: "But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."
If you go
What: Awake 2012 Arise event
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 18
Where: Jaffa Shrine Center
For tickets: Visit www
Food: Breakfast items available at 8 a.m. Box lunches are $6. Only cash will be accepted for food purchases.
"When we serve the Lord, we are a better, man, father, husband and co-worker," McGarvey said.
He said he will talk to the men about their faith in Christ and challenge them to take inventory of their lives.
McGarvey said a transformation begins with individuals in order for it to take place in the community.
The transformation in Clay County began with a march of about 4,000 Christian and concerned citizens led by 63 pastors on May 2, 2004, in Manchester. Abner said the pastors repented for putting their desires, buildings and programs ahead of the people.
Seven years ago, Clay County was known for its corruption and violence. Daniel Boone National Forest near Manchester became "America's largest pot field in the '70s and '80s," Abner said.
"Kids were dying from OxyContin and meth [methamphetamines]," he said.
He said people would not vote because the elections were corrupt and the laws were not being enforced.
Finally the people had enough.
"It wasn't the darkness that was the problem," he said. "It was the lack of light."
"The hardest thing was for the churches to come together," he said.
"We were trying to build our own little kingdoms. It was all about me and my church. The church is supposed to be the voice of the community."
Abner said before the transformation, "churches did not know how to help them [drug addicts]. They are high maintenance people."
Now almost every one of the more than 100 churches in the county have a program to help drug addicts, including Life Line, Christian Alcoholics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery and Teen Challenge.
Along with the drug problem, the community has worked to improve life in other ways.
"You can't have a drug problem without there being corruption at a high level," Abner said. A court watch was put into place to make the judicial system accountable. Abner said before that a data base of 10,000 cases showed that most had been dismissed.
Literacy programs were established, activities for youths, such as fishing, basketball, soccer and archery, were started and the economy has improved.
"It's phenomenal. We've changed our society in every area," Abner said.
He and Collett now tell their story and offer guidance to others about how to change their communities through Appalachia Transformation. According to the GlowTorch website (www.glowtorch.com), 46 states and five countries have contacted Manchester's faith-based rehabilitation center for answers. A trailer of the documentary, "An Appalachian Dawn," is also at the site.
Collett, 48, who left home at age 13, is featured in the documentary.
He became a street fighter and lifted weights when he got a little older. In his early adult years, he described himself as stout (strong in body and tough).
He said his father, whom he called a moonshiner, had taught him, "don't let anybody defeat you."
Collett, who said he has "done it all when it comes to drugs," worked in the coal mines in eastern Kentucky. He met a woman from California, and according to Collett, "it was love at first sight." They married, and he said he controlled his drug habit for awhile, but it eventually resurfaced when he got hurt in the mines and ended up being home a lot.
Eventually, he deserted his family.
"I left them with nothing to eat and no way to get anywhere, and I didn't care," he said. "I missed all of it, my kids growing up. When they needed me, I was not there."
"It makes a difference when Jesus Christ is your God," he said. "When drugs are your god, you don't care about nothing but yourself."
Collett, who is remarried, said all the changes have occurred in his life because he experienced the reality of God about eight years ago.
He had just been released from jail and had no where to go.
He found refuge in a portable restroom near a new car repair businesses. The temperature was 19 degrees, and Collett was dressed in blue jeans, a sweatshirt and Western boots.
He said he thought it was his last night on earth and remembers praying to God to keep him from freezing to death.
"God saved me that night," Collett said.
The next day, the man who owned the garage, offered him and a jacket and gloves. He said he didn't need them because he was not cold.
Now, Collett ministers to recovering drug addicts.
"The greatest thing in life is our salvation. 'God so loved the world' includes prostitutes, drug dealers and addicts, too. The difference between who I was and who I am is Jesus Christ," he said.
He challenges the church to reach beyond its walls to help others.
"Jesus is love, but he is the greatest warrior," he said. "If the church does not take a stand, we will not have the next generation. We are losing a generation. The church's mission is to reach the lost, that's why Jesus died."
Music for the event will be provided by Chiz Rider, a trumpeter from State College.
It is the second year for the Awake event sponsored by the Altoona Lighthouse Men's Ministry that meets at 7 a.m. Saturdays at its facility, Bloom and Woomer roads.