Mothers Moonlight as 'Hope Dealers' in Heroin-Ravaged Community

By Victoria Kim 12/05/17
The women created the Hope Dealer Project to help fellow West Virginians who are struggling with heroin.
the women of the hope dealer project
The women behind the Hope Dealer Project. Photo Facebook/The Hope Dealer Project

Four West Virginia mothers are helping their small community overcome its big heroin problem. They call themselves “Hope Dealers,” united by the shared experience of watching a loved one struggle with drugs.

“We’re the new dealers in town, we’re the dealers of hope,” said Lisa Melcher, whose daughter Christina died from a “pure fentanyl” overdose this past May. Christina, who used heroin for 10 years, was on the right track before she decided to “use just one more time,” according to People magazine.

The 32-year-old had been 78 days sober with a lot to look forward to—coming home from her sober living home to her two children and plans to help her mom with the Hope Dealers. "Our town is dying," says Melcher.

The other women—Tina Stride, Kristie Plotner and Tara Diggs-Mayson—have had similar experiences. They established the Hope Dealer Project in early 2016 after meeting at a Nar-Anon meeting, the first one in their community of 18,000 in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Stride’s son had a heroin problem by the time he was 19 years old, but found help in time. “I enabled my son to stay as a drug addict, giving him money, letting him come to my house to eat. I finally said no more,” says Stride. He’s now 26 with one year of sobriety under his belt, living in Florida with his wife and young daughter, miles away from his old life.

“It’s an emotional roller coaster,” says Plotner, whose daughter had been living under a bridge before she admitted that she needed help. “When you tell someone your child is a heroin addict, there’s a stigma. Your friends don’t throw a party for you.”

Through the Hope Dealer Project, the women give their time and resources to people seeking recovery, walking them through the process every step of the way.

They can be reached via their Facebook page or their hotline number (844-383-4673). They take the calls themselves, and help people figure out how to find and pay for a treatment program. They will even pick people up and drop them off to detox or rehab, or give them a bicycle or gas money—whatever it takes to stick to recovery.

Whatever isn’t covered by donations, the women pay for themselves. They handle every detail so the families can get a break. “I wish there had been one person who had done that for me,” says Plotner.

Not only that, the Hope Dealers help families understand the nature of addiction and prepare them for the twists and turns that come with it. “We tell the family they need to learn all about addiction,” says Melcher. “They are not coming home and being perfect. It’s not a cure-all. They’ll work it forever.”

The Hope Dealers spread hope without judgment, stigma, or fear. “Your past is your past, you can’t change it,” says Stride. “Just show how good you can be. You’re going to have to fight hard, dig deep.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr