“Silent Memorials-Raising Awareness Through Lives Lost to Addiction” brought its message to the Village of Monroe on Sunday, August 8.
Dee Gillen and Sheryl Cashin, two moms who lost their sons to heroin, arrived early with a cadre of volunteers to set up the posters that dotted the sidewalks in Crane Park. Each black poster included a photo and a message—some just a few sentences, others longer—memorializing a loved one who died from drugs
For Annette Kahrs, seeing a poster of a boy whose family donated to the Hope Not Handcuffs program found her struggling to hold back her tears. Kahrs, HnH Program Director for the Hudson Valley region, remembered the young man’s family who had donated recently. “We often get donations from people who lost a family member to addiction,” said Kahrs, “but this is the first time I’ve seen a face I can connect with a family name.” Kahrs says the Hudson Valley’s Hope Not Handcuffs program is modeled after the original group in Michigan. The organization received a 288,000 federal grant in January, 20021 to help grow the movement.
The Black Poster Project was seen by Gillen and Cashin as a way to raise awareness about the booming drug problem, and turned it a traveling memorial, which also allowed it to continue during the Pandemic shutdowns. From the original 50 posters the pair started with in 2019, it has grown to over 350. “When people found out we were coming to Orange County, they asked if they could also include a Poster for their family member, so we’ve added 15 more to this display,” said Kahrs. “Drug addiction is a disease, and none of the people on these Black Posters expected they would die from it. But they did. We want to let people know there is no shame, and there is help out here, if only they will give it a chance.”
Accompanying the Black Poster Project was Alumni in Recovery, a group for people who have achieved sobriety and seek to encourage others to do the same. Along with Hope Not Handcuffs Hudson Valley, all three organizations are working together to help raise awareness about the dangers and the stigma addiction brings. “The Black Poster Project helps give a face to addiction, not just a number,” said Kahrs.
To date, the following Rockland police departments are participating in Hope not Handcuffs: Towns of Clarkstown, Haverstraw, Orangetown, Ramapo and Stony Point; Villages of Piermont and South Nyack.
To contact Hope for Handcuffs Hudson Valley, call 1-833-426-HOPE (46783)
For more information:
The Black Poster Project: www.theblackposterproject.com
Hope Not Handcuffs-Hudson Valley www.hopenothandcuffshv.com
Families Against Narcotics: www.familiesagainstnarcotics.org/hopenothandcuffs-ny