Hampshire HOPE’s quilt honors those who’ve fought, lost battles with addiction

  • Peggy Vecina looks at a quilt relating to the opioid epidemic that was donated by Hampshire Hope to the Northampton Recovery Center. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Justin Marsh looks at a photo of his brother, Michael Warrington, who died two years ago and is being remembered on a locally made quilt relating to the opioid epidemic. The quilt was donated Wednesday by Hampshire HOPE to the Northampton Recovery Center. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • One of two quilts relating to the opioid epidemic that was donated by Hampshire Hope to the Northampton Recovery Center. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/29/2018 12:12:41 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Gene Page stood over a purple and yellow quilt, pointing out his grandson’s photo that’s featured on it. It was the last photo he took of Stephen.

Stephen Page’s picture was one of many on a community quilt made up of art, writing and photos honoring those who have died from opoid addiction and those in recovery.

“It’s a good picture of him,” Page said. “It’s just the way he was. I miss him a lot.”

After going to rehab, Stephen relapsed and died when he was 21. “He didn’t know how powerful drugs were,” Page said.

Hampshire HOPE, a coalition that aims to help those with an opioid addiction and their families, unveiled the quilt Wednesday afternoon at the Northampton Recovery Center with help from Mayor David Narkewicz.

Page loved it. “This is truly a work of love,” he said.

Cherry Sullivan, Hampshire HOPE program coordinator, said public health can be a lot of data and numbers.

“That doesn’t compare when you see a picture and hear a story,” Sullivan said. “This is the real public health work.”

The quilt will be hung in the Northampton Recovery Center and travel throughout the community.

Sullivan said she envisions it hung in, for example, the lobby of a library or a business to educate people and reduce stigma.

The idea originated at a Hampshire HOPE event where people were asked to put photos and words onto a board that honor those who died from opioid dependence or are struggling with addiction. The “wall of hope and remembrance,” they called it.

“This wall became giant,” said Merridith O’Leary, Hampshire HOPE’s project director. “We didn’t know what to do with it.”

What they did know, O’Leary said, is that they couldn’t take it down.

The coalition decided to put a quilt together for a more permanent piece that could easily travel. They ended up having so many photos and mementos, they actually made two quilts.

“In theory that sounded easy in our head,” O’Leary said. “One and a half years later we’re here presenting this quilt to you.”

Several local businesses helped create the quilt from the wall and O’Leary said her mother actually helped sew it.

Wednesday’s unveiling event also celebrated Northampton Recovery Center’s second anniversary.

The Hampshire HOPE coalition and the Northwestern district attorney’s office helped start the center. The program ran out of Edwards Church until it was able to move to 2 Gleason Plaza last year after receiving an anonymous donation.

The center, open to everyone, provides services like peer support groups and writing groups geared toward those recovering from addiction or impacted by someone who is recovering.

“It’s incredible work you all do here,” Narkewicz said, praising the center’s work.

District Attorney David E. Sullivan echoed Narkewicz, saying he hopes the center can get fully funded by the state next year.

“I only have one wish — you only get one — that’s my wish for 2019,” he said.

With the quilt unfolded on display, Justin Marsh pointed out a photo of his brother, Michael Warrington, who died of an opioid overdose more than two years ago.

After his brother’s death, Marsh said, he felt like people did not want to talk about drugs and what happened – like it was against social norms.

The quilt is a chance to reduce the stigma surrounding addiction, he said.

“I feel like they did a beautiful job,” he said with a grin. “All these people, they have families and touched people’s lives.”

He hopes the project will make people feel compassion.

“That’s a person,” he said, “not just someone with a problem.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com

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