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ESL Jefferson Award Winner: Stephanie Forrester, more than 3 years sober and helping others get there

Rich Donnelly
Created: May 07, 2020 08:17 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Outreach doesn't end during this shutdown. One local advocate for those battling addiction hasn't stopped sharing hope. 

Stephanie Forrester fought her own battle with addiction, and she won. 

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Now she's a winner of this year's ESL Jefferson Award.

"I've hit so many rock bottoms, my rock bottom has a trap door and every time I pick up I fall further and further, faster and faster," Forrester said.

Her life used to be defined by trauma, pain and drugs.

"I lost everything, I lost custody of my children, I was selling myself on the streets to get my drugs, I was homeless," Forrester said.

Forrester has battled addiction throughout her entire adult life. At three and half years sober, her mission is to help those currently battling addiction.

"I had to choose, and I chose to continue to fight, and fight for others still out there struggling," Forrester said.

Every week her organization, Hope Dealers BTC Inc. goes out in Rochester to check on those battling substance abuse.

They pass out Narcan, collect needles and hand out backpacks filled with survival gear and personal items for those who live on the streets.

Members of the Hope Dealers still make their outreach trips during the shutdown.

"The coronavirus reminds me of the overdose and drug pandemic that we're in," Forrester said. "The isolation that we experience, many of us are used to and we've learned tools on how to get through them."

To date, Hope Dealers has helped more than 150 people in the Rochester area into treatment facilities.

"Seeing people go through detox and get into sober living and then those same people come out and share with us 'I'm 30 days clear or I just hit a year', it's amazing,” Forrester said. "We feel so lost and just to be able to find our way back to the living is one of the most amazing things I've experienced or witnessed."

For those looking for a success story through Hope Dealers, look no further than Forrester herself

"Getting my kids back and having an apartment and a car are all things I never thought would be possible, people say that recovery is more than your wildest dreams and it really is," Forrester said. "We just want to be able to give back to the community and help bring us together because we really recover together, it's all of us working together and being compassionate and caring, that hug or that sandwich literally can change someone's life."

There's another accomplishment for Hope Dealers. The organization was recently designated as an official 501 (c)(3) charity.


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