Ben Zimmer and LIFE Center

1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION? WHERE ARE YOU LOCATED AND WHAT IS SOME OF THE WORK THAT YOU DO?

The LIFE Center is a Christ centered, faith based organization located in Mercer County, Greenville Pa 16125. The Center programming and outreach is provided by (20) plus trained volunteer leaders. The mission statement is “to equip and provide support for living a purposeful and fulfilling life through encouragement, resources, training and discipleship in an atmosphere of love and acceptance.”

The Center’s focus is to expand education and training opportunities for individuals and groups who serve in areas of prevention and recovery from “life controlling problems”, such as Substance Use Disorders, Compulsive Behaviors, etc. Our approach is diverse, as we organize and provide training and educational for the public, volunteer leaders and professionals, who work in the field . We embrace collaboration to enhance effectiveness in implementing our strategies. The LIFE Center opened as the result of collaboration between Mercer County Behavior Health Commission’s, Overdose Prevention Workgroup and Bethel Life Worship Center.

2. WHAT KINDS OF PROBLEMS HAVE YOU SEEN IN YOUR COMMUNITY/ORGANIZATION AS A RESULT OF THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC?

The Opioid epidemic has caused widespread social and economic disaster in our County and across the Country. The carnage and the physical and mental health issues caused by Opioid induced brain disease results in deep brokenness and chaos in our families and communities. This brokenness creates a wide gamut of emotional problems, driving abusive relationships and hopelessness to new levels, resulting in a failing culture.

3. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO HELP WITH THE PROBLEMS YOUR COMMUNITY (OR YOUR ORGANIZATION) FACES?

The name of our Center, the LIFE Center explains in a word, our approach in combating this epidemic. LIFE stands for L “Love”- I “Initiating”- F “Friendship” – E “Empowerment”. We believe that as we show unconditional Love for others, Friendships and trust will result and this will open the door to Empowerment. Our love and concern for those impacted by this disease is expressed in many ways. Fundamentally we understand that people “don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” We show we care in many ways, embracing two key components “meeting people where they are at” and “developing trusting relationships.”

4. NAME SOME OF THE SUCCESSFUL STRATEGIES YOU HAVE USED.

We see the area churches serving as a “megaphone” to the communities. Even though a small percentage of the population attends church, the church is driven by compassion and outreach to the communities. The folks who attend are encouraged and taught to reach out to family, friends and neighbors and share hope and help. The Center uses a wide variety of strategies to provide hope and help to the prevention and recovery community. Below you will find (3) of the most often used.

• Building Relationships We recognize one of the main barriers to getting people into recovery is fear of exposure and lack of trust. Our strategy of organizing monthly “Recovery Community Connection Outings’” is design to overcome this barrier. The Outings always involve food and fun activities with the intention of building friendships and trusting relationships. As the relationships are built on trust and friendship, people begin to connect to prevention and recovery initiates.

• Equipping the Church Leadership The second strategy the Center implements is equipping the church leadership to provide “topic specific” weekly equipping and support groups . These groups offer several different equipping and support curriculums such as the internationally recognized programs of Celebrate Recovery, Living Free Ministries and Life Healing Choices. Topics of study include but are not limited to : anger management, overcoming fear, anxiety and depression, marriage enrichment, parenting, codependency, and 12 steps programs. Small Group study materials are available to help overcome the life controlling problems, hurts, habits and hang-ups unique to today’s culture.

• Better Together Seminars the third key strategy is to conduct quarterly seminar’s for Pastor’s and Lay Leaders we call “Better Together Seminars”.  These seminars promote unity and collaboration between the area churches, local and state government, faith based organizations and private entities involved in prevention and recovery. During these seminars we build relationships with area Pastor’s as we share a meal and provide general education and resources for the church to use in serving the communities. Topics include, County and State resources for prevention and recovery such as local intervention, assessment, treatment and recovery support services and much more

5. IN GENERAL HOW HAS THE LIFE CENTER CONTINUED TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

While reflecting on the progressive development of the LIFE Center outreach two thoughts come to mind most often, ” divine connections” and “personal fulfillment”. God has literally connected hundreds of people to the unique vision of the LIFE Center. The variety and active sharing of gifts, talents and experiences, has been effective and enthusiastic, resulting in personal fulfillment.