A Letter from Beth Butler, Former Chapter Coordinator, NOPE of Hillsborough
I am a baby boomer through-and-through! I read a traditional print newspaper every day, and I will never forget the day when I read about a NOPE student presentation taking place at a local high school. I had never heard of NOPE, but I liked what the paper reported their mission and messages to be as our eldest son was in a really low point of his battle with the disease of addiction. I remember thinking, "What if this presentation had been given at our son's school? Would it have made a difference in his choices that junior year when he took his first half a Xanax pill from a so-called friend?"
I called the NOPE National office (which at the time was down in the Palm Beach County area of south Florida), and I gave a monetary donation and asked how to go about starting a local chapter in Hillsborough County. I was connected with a couple of the founding members of our county's chapter via that initial contact with NOPE National. Jenny Shin and Gerri Marsocci (among a few others) welcomed me into the fold of what was the start up phases of the NOPE of Hillsborough Chapter. We went in front of the Board of County Commissioners for funding and were granted more funding than we had asked for or dreamed of receiving. That funding allowed us to start student presentations in the 2012-2013 school year.
I had been a public speaker via the company I owned for 10 years prior to becoming involved with NOPE, and being on stage with the ability to share the powerful messages and stories of NOPE proved to be more rewarding than any audience of 1,000 to whom I had presented in the past. My role as moderator for NOPE of Hillsborough found me in many schools year after year as Hillsborough's school district is the 8th largest in the nation. I soon moved into the additional role of Chapter Coordinator, creating relationships with school administrators, school resource officers, and guidance department personnel - all of whom play key roles in every school NOPE presents at. Thankfully, our Chapter has flourished and reached more than 84,000 students in both middle and high schools in the Hillsborough County School district.
Our core group of volunteers are passionate about bringing these messages and stories of local teens who have lost their battle with the disease of addiction. When we first started, we had only NOPE National stories of task force members to share. Now, six school years later, we have way too many stories of local children who have lost their lives at 14, 16, 19, and beyond to a substance related death. Children whom many of the students that sit in the audience went to school with, or their brother or sister knew the person, or some connection makes the story truly hit home and become a reality.
We have come a long way in the past four years: we automated our volunteer services with a great online program called SignUpGenius, we have made connections with local media people who support our efforts and provide us coverage during our annual candle light vigils in hopes of raising awareness of how very local of an issue this substance abuse epidemic is, we have a fairly good size database of subscribers/donors who get an email from us once a month with updates on our efforts, and we have identified viable fundraising outlets to keep our efforts moving in a positive direction.
I personally have developed many friendships that will last my lifetime thanks to NOPE of Hillsborough and the dedicated people involved. What a lovely bonus to take away from a very rewarding four years of service to such a well-respected non-profit such as NOPE.
As I segue to a full time career this fall (yet maintain my role as a moderator with NOPE of Hillsborough) I feel confident that the team we have formed will continue the mission of our chapter with energy and dedication. The mission to diminish the frequency and impact of overdose death through community education, family support, and purposeful advocacy. All of us are involved with NOPE most often due to a tie we have personally to the disease of addiction. We all serve with a thankful heart that we are able to take a challenging situation and make something positive come of it in hopes of helping others.
Here's to what all of you do each and every day to fight this epidemic of addiction and overdose death and to help erase the stigma attached to the disease of addiction.
Thoughtfully - Beth Butler, former Chapter Coordinator, NOPE of Hillsborough