EL takes back the valley

Chris Green of the East Liverpool Police Department (left) explains how K9 Nero works as the crowd looks on during Saturday’s Taking Back Our Valley event in front of city hall. (Photo by Stephanie Ujhelyi)

EAST LIVERPOOL — Downtown East Liverpool was a busy place Saturday, offering both opportunities to get bookbags filled with school supplies on one block and a message of hope on another.

When started three years ago, Taking Back Our Valley was the call to action for the community in the fight against drugs, after city officials had made the decision to share a still image of adults in the front seat passed out from opiate overdoses.

Family Care Ministries, which sits across from East Liverpool city hall and the city’s police department, teamed up with the agencies to continue that message against drugs Saturday morning with its annual event.

Activities began earlier with a 5Krun/walk, a prayer run (faith-based version of a poker run), and Mayor Ryan Stovall presented a proclamation.

The day’s festivities were peppered with not only music, a fire engine pull for hope and a donut eating contest but also testimony but recovering addicts throughout the four-hour event. MJB BBQ also was on hand with plenty of delicious offerings, and the kiddies could enjoy the bounce house and face painting.

Patrolman Chris Green was on hand with K9 Nero, who was anxious to get to work on Josh Lytle, donning the department’s bright red bite suit for a demonstration for those in attendance.

Lytle did confirm that first year, East Liverpool had seen 72 overdoses but has seen a marked decline since focus was put on the problem. In its first year, the event drew 700 participants but that number drop to the weather, after deciding to move it to the fall. Although appreciative of the overdose trend dropping it, he said that officials are seeing increases in suicides due to their hopelessness.

“Really this is just about a community pulling together to fulfill those hopes,” he said. “It takes all of us to change a life.”

All proceeds benefited Family Care Ministries in its mission to address addictions and problems of all times – not just drugs.

The Quaker Digital Academy also hosted its annual Edupalooza event, which distributed more than 400 bags to area children and provided school supplies that could be won by winning them as prizes for games, such as the duck pond or lollipop draw. Heritage Thermal Services also donated bicycles for winning children.