Overdose Awareness Day to be marked by 2,000-piece flag display
By David Karas | Correspondent
When Melinda Kogut had a family member who was struggling with addiction, she experienced something quite common among loved ones in similar predicaments.
“I really felt alone, and afraid to reach out and to get help,” she said.
That family member has now been in recovery for two and a half years, and Kogut dedicates her time to help make sure others, like her, don’t have to experience that same isolation.
“I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through without support,” she said.
Kogut is one of the founding members of Recovery Advocates for the Shore (RAFTS), a community-based organization borne in part out of a 12-step program being facilitated in St. Denis Parish, Manasquan. The group, she said, is “made up of people who are in recovery, loved ones of those in recovery, and also just members of the community who see a problem and want to make a change.”
In honor of International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31, RAFTS will display one purple flag for each life lost to opioid overdose in New Jersey to date this year. According to the State of New Jersey and its www.NJCares.gov website, that number, as of Aug. 22, stands at 1,912.
Flags will be on display from Aug. 29 to Sept. 4 in two locations: 554 East Main St., Manasquan, and Allaire and Baileys Corner Road in Wall. Personalized flags in memory of loved ones lost are available to be placed at the Manasquan location for a suggested donation of $20.
RAFTS is still in its first year of operation, and the flag display, Kogut said, is intended to help raise awareness.
“We want to acknowledge the grief of the families, and then also to spread awareness and reduce the stigma,” she said. “For many years, anybody who was struggling with addiction themselves, or had a family member who was struggling, would walk alone. And it is a path you don’t have to walk alone.”
One of the main objectives of RAFTS, she said, is to help let those in need know that support is available.
“There is support out there, and it is a lot more common than I think people realize,” she said.
She emphasized the commitment that RAFTS has to connecting individuals with whatever they need.
“There is hope...and we just want people to know that they are not alone,” she said. “We are there for them, whatever they need.”
To learn more about RAFTS or to purchase a flag, stop by the Manasquan location Wednesdays or Thursdays from 5-7 p.m. or Fridays from 5-9 p.m.
RAFTS may be contacted at 833-227-6237; on the web at raftsnj.org, or on Facebook at facebook.com/RAFTSNJ.