Folks poured into the Lions Park in Walnut Cove late Saturday afternoon for the annual STOKES STOKED, a back-to-school rally featuring food, praise music, testimonies, skits and a keynote speaker.
Event organizer Leslie Bray Brewer said she was pleased with how the night went.
“We followed what God told us to do, and many were blessed. I was a bit disappointed to be missing so many people I expected to be there, and I am always sad for the local churches that don’t get on board, but overall, it was a beautiful night of unity and worship,” she said.
An estimated 400 people came out to enjoy the event which originated in 2008 through the late Anita Burroughs Mabe, the director of Burroughs Funeral Home at the time. Burroughs had two children at South Stokes and wanted to host a Christian rally that would inspire youth to hold tight to their faith throughout the school year. In 2010, Burroughs passed away at 46-years-old from cancer, and the rally lapsed. Four years later, Brewer felt compelled to continue what her friend began.
In the past, the event was scheduled the weekend before school starts in Stokes County, but due to scheduling conflicts, the rally was moved to Sept. 23.
“The difference in the date change is that once the sun went down, the temperatures were very comfortable, unlike the August event when it’s still muggy and hot at 9 p.m.,” Brewer said.
Tammy Crawford, an ensemble leader at Central Triad Church led an impressive community choir that belted out, “Help Me Lift Jesus”, the theme of this year’s rally based on John 12:32: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”
“When I felt from God to form a community choir last summer, I didn’t know how to pick a choir director from all the local churches; how would it have been fair to have picked one of the many great ones we have and leave the others out? So I brought in someone neutral, from out of town. And she flowed right in with us in a beautiful way,” Brewer said.
The evening went on to include a prayer circle around local leaders and government officials and a racial reconciliation ceremony addressing racist and prejudiced behavior.
Keynote speaker Joan Robinson shared a moving testimony of her 21-year-old daughter Hannah, an honor student, athlete and West Stokes graduate, who passed away from a drug overdose in July of 2015.
“You could have heard a pin drop,” Brewer said.
Robinson described her daughter as the type of child who loved people, had a heart of gold and whose smile and laughter could light up a room.
As a young lady, her mother said she excelled throughout middle school at Chestnut Grove and loved playing soccer for the Trojans, a team her father coached.
In high school, she continued to shine in the classroom and on the soccer field.
“Hannah always had really good friends and then during her senior year of high school, some of her friend choices began to change.”
Robinson said her daughter began talking to a new boy and became more involved with his circle of influences. But she applied to college and was accepted into UNC-Charlotte. In the fall of 2011, her family helped move her into a new dorm, but soon after she began to struggle through the first semester.
“She wasn’t going to class; she was upset all the time and just wanted to come home. We learned that the wrong kind of friends were still a part of her life.”
Over the next couple of years, Robinson said her daughter delved into alcohol and drug use.
“This caused her to drop out of college all together. Hannah, the once smart, bright young lady began to sink lower into a person that we didn’t know how to help.”
On two different occasions, Robinson’s daughter ended up in the emergency room after overdosing on pills.
“Now, Hannah wasn’t just using pills, she started using heroin as well. She had been arrested and told to get help or stay in jail.”
Robinson spoke to a family friend, Jim Segal, a N.C. State Trooper, who attends Calvary Baptist in King and also teaches a drug rehabilitation program. The family rallied to enroll Hannah in a six month Christian based program in Hammond, Indiana.
“We were so proud of her. She was doing so well,” Robinson said.
After coming home in March of 2014, things were looking positive, but in June the downward spiral began again. The following year on July 15, she died from an overdose.
“I never knew that kind of pain existed. Watching my beautiful child being taken away in a casket is a memory that I will never be able to forget,” Robinson said through tears on Saturday.
Robinson admitted her family doesn’t have all the answers, but they do know that drugs don’t discriminate.
“Hannah came from a good home. We brought both our girls up to be kind and to care for others. Hannah was faithful to church and was fortunate to have two parents in the home that loved her. The addiction was stronger. The addiction changes you and you are no longer the person you once were. I don’t want Hannah to be remembered as a person who used drugs or alcohol, but every day that reality is there. Drugs and alcohol took her life,” Robinson said.
She challenged parents, teens and young adults to reach out to those hurting.
“Let them know you love them every day. Call them, text them, just let them know they matter.”
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.