ST. GEORGE — On Saturday morning, about a hundred volunteers met in the area of Temple Springs Nature Park to clean up trash and clear overgrowth.
The service project was organized by Ty Empey and included members of the Recovery Softball League as well as other community members and city officials.
Empey, who has been in recovery for four years from drugs and alcohol, started the softball league in 2018 as a way for people in recovery to get together and support one another outside of the traditional support groups.
He told St. George News that service projects serve as a way for those who have suffered from addiction to help redefine their identities while also giving back to the community.
“In the past, we’ve had labels on our heads because we used drugs and alcohol. So doing service is our way to give back, repair our names and differentiate ourselves from the lives we used to live,” he said.
Even after getting clean, it can be hard to shake the stereotypes that come with having had a substance abuse disorder, and often society doesn’t expect people in recovery to do service projects, Empey said.
“We just want people to know that we do recover, and we are good people,” he said.
St. George Mayor Jon Pike, who also participated in the service project, said he was grateful for the efforts and opportunity to spend some time with people in the recovery community.
“I was so happy to see the Recovery Softball League members and their families volunteering to help clean up and prepare the area at Temple Springs to be a park,” he said. “I got to meet many of these great people who want to give back to a community that has, as they told me, supported them in their individual recovery from various addictions. I am grateful for their efforts and applaud their service.”
For Emmalee Layton, who has been almost seven months sober, participating in service projects is integral to her recovery.
“For about eight years in this town, I ran amuck. I destroyed this town in my drug addiction. So any chance we have to come out and give back to the community – like this park back here that we just cleaned up – to rebuild our community, that’s what I do.”
Helping her community also benefits her own recovery.
“It helps me stay connected not only in the fellowships of recovery but the community too. It wasn’t just addicts and alcoholics out here today. It was the community of St. George.” she said. “Connection is stronger than addiction.”
Derick Drake said he also took advantage of his community. Lending a hand for the service project allows him a way to say thank you.
“St. George City has been a huge part in supporting us in our Recovery Softball League,” he said.
Recovery is about much more than abstinence from drugs or alcohol, he said, and these service projects offer a road for self-redemption.
“It’s an opportunity to feel good about yourself and feel good about life,” he said. “It’s an important part of my recovery.”
Mario Plancarte, a weekend crew leader for the city parks, trails and cemetery department, said the service project was great.
“Seeing everyone out here giving a hand was great,” he said, adding that the group accomplished a lot Saturday. “A lot of trash got picked up. We got two dump trailers and a dump truck picked up today. That’s great.”
Empey said it’s encouraging that the city is working with the recovery community to do service projects like the clean-up effort. He said it’s a way for the community to gain a better understanding of each other.
“All these people are some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life. And they’re so kind and so compassionate, and they’ve been through so much. They have turned their lives around. And they’re such good members of society.”
The main message Empey hopes people understand about addiction is that people do recover.
“Nobody plans on becoming addicted to drugs. That’s not something that people grow up wanting to be. It is something that kind of starts with a choice – it is definitely a choice to start using drugs. But then it gets to the point where it’s no longer a choice. It’s straight up dependency. Your body is dependent on the drugs. It clouds your memory. It clouds your judgment. And you’re not able to make correct choices anymore.”
Empey said that coming out of that and turning one’s life around is not an easy thing to do, “especially after you’ve done a lot of damage.”
“So for all these people who have gone through addiction themselves and turned their lives around and now they’re waking up on a Saturday morning to come give service is huge.”
The next event scheduled for the Recovery Softball League is a game against city law enforcement on Aug. 22.
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