Macedonia -- With news of the increasing number of overdoses and deaths due to opiate drugs, one group is hoping a seminar will raise awareness and help educate residents on signs of heroin and opiate abuse.

The Messengers of Hope, a group of recovering addicts and their loved ones, will share their stories and thoughts on fighting the epidemic Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. at the United Methodist Church of Macedonia.

Guest speakers at the event also include Akron Municipal Drug Court Judge Joy Malek Oldfield, representatives from Oriana House, Summit County Public Health Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone).

Vance Stapleton, a recovering addict and member of Messengers of Hope, said his battle and the battle with addiction his children have gone through have inspired him to help others.

"In the two years I have been sober, I have personally known 48 people who have died from heroin overdoses," Stapleton said. "For me to stay sober, I feel I have to help the next person who seeks recovery. It's just part of my sobriety."

Stapleton said he struggled with opiate addiction for 24 years and was a member of Heroin Anonymous when it first started in Summit County. The Messengers of Hope evolved out of that group.

He said they call the group Messengers of Hope because their purpose is to let those who are addicted and their families know that it is possible to overcome opiate addiction.

In addition to speaking at churches, the group has also been invited to speak at area high schools.

Stapleton said he has met children as young as age 13 who were daily intravenous drug users, adding his experiences have given him a unique perspective to be able to help others.

"Until a person get sober and sits down with another person in recovery, they are never going to make it," he said.

Stapleton added he hopes to raise awareness and let families know what to look for and that covering up their loved one's addiction does more harm than good.

"There is a lot of shame and guilt with opioid addiction and families cover it up," he said. "I pray and hope the people who attend this meeting do not ever have to deal with a loved one who is addicted, but if they do, I want to teach them how to help them. You can possibly love someone to death by covering up their addiction."

The Macedonia United Methodist Church is located at 1280 East Aurora Road.

Briana Barker: 330-541-9432