Nonprofit to host ‘freedom from addiction’ rally

The nonprofit organization Stand in the Gap Coalition (SIGCO) is hosting an event that the founders hope will bring about some major breakthroughs for those battling addiction.

Freedom Rally 2019 will be held on Nov. 2, from noon to 6 p.m., at the Claiborne County Fairgrounds. The rally will begin with a guided prayer walk. There will be a plethora of professional assistance and dedicated prevention and rehabilitative resources on site. Several speakers will give their testimonies of how they found a way out of drug abuse. Gospel and contemporary Christian music will be provided by the Singing Gibson’s and A C Hagy & Co.

Stand in the Gap has been, since its inception, a clearinghouse of sorts for combating addiction. Cofounders Dan and Hazle Spurlock have worked tirelessly to bring hope and tangible help to those in the midst of the battle against alcohol and drug abuse.

The couple began this journey with a 70 mile trip to Manchester, Kentucky to view the documentary “An Appalachian Dawn” – a film that chronicles the downward spiral for those caught in the web of illicit and illegal drug activities, particularly within our three-state region.

“Families were being torn apart. Children losing their lives or their parents to drugs,” said Hazle Spurlock. “It was a desperate time. Clay County, Kentucky was known nationally as the ‘OxyContin Capitol of America’ – a poor commentary on a land loved by generations of mountaineers.”

Spurlock says she and her husband made the trip home with a heightened sense of urgency. She said the two were convinced that a cooperative effort must be attempted to reclaim communities from substance abuse.

The couple scheduled an appointment with Edwin Robertson who had been, during his lifetime, a well-known community activist. The three decided to explore the possibility of organizing a group of locals who would agree to “stand together” against addictions.

This band of three began to hold viewings of the documentary that had spurred the couple into action. In February of 2011, a small group of volunteers began gathering at the Pinnacle Overlook (inside the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park) to pray for guidance.

The group continued to grow as word spread about the cooperative effort. By November of that year, some 8,000 residents of the tri-state area gathered as they walked into the town of Cumberland Gap, wearing bright green tees bearing the official Stand in the Gap logo and the Bible verse II Chronicles 7:14, which states:

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

The verse became the organizational foundation message and the phrase “healing of our land” the primary focus of the nonprofit.

As the group assembled in the Gap, several reportedly witnessed a low-hanging cloud, in the form of a cross, against an otherwise blue sky. The Spurlocks say the cloud seemed an “unmistakable signature of confidence” for the gathering.

The nonprofit held several prayer marches. A march in 2014 drew some 3,000 individuals from across east Tennessee. The event culminated at the foot of the massive 100 feet cross, located at the time along I-75 in Campbell County.

The Tennessee Department of Mental Health, Substance Abuse Services recently designated Stand in the Gap as the Prevention Coalition for Claiborne County. The recognition came with grant funding, which will assist in coordinating efforts with local governmental agencies, law enforcement, schools and faith-based organizations.

Money from the grant will be used in three primary areas, to educate and assist those who want to stop abusing their substance of choice. A portion of the funds will help those 14 to 25 who are battling binge drinking. Some will go to help stop the popularity of tobacco use among children between the ages of 12 and 17.

A chunk of the money will go to addressing non-medical prescription drug use within all age groups.

Stand in the Gap Coalition recently moved its headquarters to 325 Straight Creek Road in New Tazewell, inside the building that was once the main office for the Powell Valley Electric Cooperative.

“We heartily encourage our Claiborne people, businesses, schools and churches to allow us the opportunity to serve with you to make Claiborne County a most desired place to reside in family, education or business,” said Spurlock.

Stand in the Gap Coalition is a 501(c) (3) faith-based, tax-deductible, volunteer organization whose main concerns encompass substance abuse prevention, rehabilitation, education and networking.

For more information, call 423-300-1302 or email: standntgap@gmail.com