President Mark Killingsworth presided over today’s meeting. Guest, Michael Dixon provided the invocation and Mark Killingsworth provided the Pledge of Allegiance. The meeting was held at the Holiday Inn North.  
 
Mark thanked those who helped with today’s meeting. He also announced that Rotarian Chris Dunkley lost his 20-year-old son recently. The club will be sending condolences. Denny Bubrig introduced his guest, Chris Pfalzgraf. Chris is a prospective member.
 
Mark then introduced today’s guest speaker, James Moore. James is a graduate of USM who taught elementary music in Texas public schools for 6 years before returning home in 1984 to open Moore’s Bicycle Shop. He participated in the early development stages of the Longleaf Trace and also served as Alderman for the City of Petal 2005-2009. James joins us today to share the story behind the loss of his son, Jeffrey, the misinformation and stigma that often accompany addiction, and the fund created in his name at the Pine Belt Foundation. 
 
Jeffrey came to his family in 2014 and said he had a problem and needed help. He was an active heroin injector. Despite that addiction, he made the President’s list while attending community college. Following Jeffrey’s admission, the family immediately put Jeffery into rehab. James says he now wishes that he had a better understanding at the time of what his son was going through. Opioid addiction needs are measured in hours, not days. Suffering an addictive disease doesn’t change the person. They remain the way they were before the addiction, but the addiction changes their needs.
 
After sixty days in rehab, Jeffery was kicked out of the program. He had been caught smoking for the fourth time and the rehab facility had to enforce their rules. Jeffery lived at home for the next eight days. James says he will always be grateful to have had those days with his son. On the eighth days after leaving rehab, they found Jeffery unresponsive on his couch. Calling 911 immediately, James began CPR. He was taken to the emergency room but did not survive.
 
James says on that day he lost much more than just his 24-year-old son. He lost everything. Finally, after surviving the grief, James has learned that we must always look deeper than just on the surface to see a person’s value. He has learned to appreciate that it is not what his son did, it was who he was.
 
Shortly after his son’s death, James put together a community celebration to help families of other addicts to better understand and appreciate the value of those people. One-hundred-twenty-five people showed up at the first celebration. They each lit a candle in celebration of their family’s addiction victim and spoke the victim’s name.
 
James says addiction is an unfair disease. It puts a stigma on the victim and often causes them to hate who they are. Addiction is the only disease that destroys the mind, the body, and the soul. He says the one thing all addicts need is connectivity to family, friends, and the community.
 
James began the Jeffery Fund to help addicts. After completing rehab, many of them need housing assistance. The Fund provides that. It also provides financial assistance to those who are in rehab.
 
James invites recovering patients out to his bike shop weekly for a bike ride. He took a group this morning for a fifteen-mile ride.
 
 According to James, Hattiesburg needs more Oxford Houses. These are homes where recovering addicts can live together after rehab, share costs, and support each other. There are currently three in the Hattiesburg area.
 
James says addiction always begins with a choice. Addicts make bad choices until they can no longer control the disease.
 
Mark thanked James for his comments and then presented him with a $1,000 check from the Rotary club. Our members contributed to the donation and it is the first of four quarterly causes the Club will support this year. 
 
There being no further business to come before the club, Mark thanked those who were able to attend today’s meeting both in person and by Zoom and adjourned the meeting with our motto: “Service Above Self.”