FORSYTH COUNTY - The hundreds of people who gathered Thursday night to celebrate life and promote recovery were no longer bound by addiction or hopelessness. Only by love and thanks.
Perhaps the biggest show of thanks during the No Longer Bound “I Am Banquet” at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center was the presentation of the nonprofit’s inaugural Servant Leadership Award.
Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper received the award, which will have recipients’ names added to it each year.
“Servant leadership is one of the seven core values at No Longer Bound,” Executive Director Edward Bailey said. “We should all strive for a serve-down leadership mentality if we live the way we are supposed to at No Longer Bound.”
The nonprofit is an addiction recovery program for men that has served Forsyth County for more than 20 years.
Piper has created several community programs within the sheriff’s office to combat addiction and drug and alcohol use in Forsyth County, whether through prevention or intervention.
The award is to be given to a charitable figure who, by leveraging their power within the community, enriches the lives of others, Bailey said.
“A real leader looks at where you are at the time, and they’re willing to be flexible, and they’re willing to change, and they’re willing to do what the county needs at the time. And that’s exactly what he did,” said District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, who has advocated alongside Bailey and Piper for drug awareness. “He went far beyond the call of duty, and he stepped up to the plate. And he’s formed all these programs. He’s done all these things that he didn’t have to do, and he did them because of a servant-like attitude.
“He did it because he saw the need. He heard the mothers. He heard the grandmothers. He heard the kids. He went to the crime scenes, and he saw the children that have died. And he had a compassionate heart.”
One of the programs that began under Piper’s watch is the Teen Interception Program, or TIP, a series of either voluntary or mandated drug and alcohol prevention classes for high school students.
“Hundreds of people have the sheriff’s phone number, and he is sincere in telling people to call him if they need anything at all,” said Cpl. Page Cash, who runs the program. “He wants to know what the needs are. And, basically, we can’t do our jobs without the community.”
The Forsyth County community, Piper said after he was surprised with the award, is not immune to drug addiction and alcoholism. But it is ahead in its efforts to fight the statistics.
“We stopped denying it a lot earlier,” Piper said, “because of things like No Longer Bound.”
NLB’s Bailey said he used to have to explain addiction to people.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have to explain it anymore. I bet everyone in here knows someone directly,” he said to the packed conference room Thursday night, which was filled with county stakeholders, elected officials, representatives from schools, sheriff’s office deputies, men currently in the program, alumni and their families. “We’ve all watched this thing shred to pieces our community. Shred to pieces our family. And it’s honestly time that we do something about it.”
His program is doing just that.
Last year, NLB had a 75 percent graduation rate.
That means a lot to those involved when they know that out of 900,000 Georgians who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, less than 3 percent will get treatment. Not all of them will beat their addiction.
“I don’t think sobriety is a goal in and of itself,” he said. “It’s a good thing, but when you’re free, sobriety is a given.”