Uniting to Combat Addiction in Northwest Florida – Part 2

As evidence of the growing opioid epidemic continues to ravage the nation, Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties are also falling victim. Last week, Ministry Village at Olive announced a new special project in partnership with the United Way of Escambia County and the AmeriCorps VISTA program. Beginning in July 2018, A.J. Robey is serving as the Opioid Task Force Specialist for Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties. Ministry Village at Olive is proud to serve as A.J.’s host site for this special one-year project.

While many people would shy away from what seems to be such an overwhelming and alarming task, A.J. Robey’s enthusiasm and earnest passion for the mission before him is unmistakable.

A.J. started using drugs and alcohol when he was only 12 years old. Born and raised in Milton, Florida, A.J. lived in Colorado for 6 years, and struggled with alcohol and substance abuse for nearly half his life. When he moved back to Florida, he lost his father and his world starting falling apart. After hitting rock bottom, A.J. began attending Most Excellent Way meetings at Olive Baptist Church and received the support and encouragement he needed to overcome his addictions. A.J. has been clean and sober for over 2 years and believes that God is opening doors for him that would have never been possible without his experience and struggles.

In 2014, A.J. became a fulltime caregiver to his paralyzed aunt. Having dreamed as a child of becoming a doctor, A.J.’s interests have always revolved around the medical field. After overcoming his addictions, A.J. enrolled in nursing school at Pensacola State College while also taking medical school prerequisite classes for a bachelor’s degree in public health from the University of West Florida. He plans to graduate with RN and BS degrees in 2019, work as a nurse to gain clinical experience, and then apply to medical schools with a future vision of medical mission work.

“I am very grateful to be where I am and able to help others who are where I’ve been,” explains A.J.. “Too many families have lost loved ones to overdoses and addictions. I can relate to people struggling with addiction. Through being a caregiver for my aunt and my training to become a nurse, I’ve developed a deep compassion for people in need. With an education in public health, I can work to combat these problems for the greater population.”

“I never thought someone like me who struggled with drugs and alcohol could be in ministry. But God can use anyone for His glory to share the gospel. It’s a great honor to serve my hometown community in this way. I’m just so humbled and blown away by what God has done.”

Watch for updates on A.J.’s work as the Opioid Task Force Specialist by following the Ministry Village at Olive Facebook page.

What is an Americorps VISTA? VISTA stands for Volunteers In Service To America. AmeriCorps VISTA is a program of CNCS (Corporation for National and Community Service), the federal agency that improves lives, strengthens communities, and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering. AmeriCorps VISTA members focus on building sustainable programs, and strengthen and support organizations by building infrastructure, expanding community partnerships, and securing long-term resources. The AmeriCorps VISTA program provides a living allowance based on poverty rates for a single individual in the VISTA’s geographic area of service.

United Way of Escambia County is a local 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that unites agencies, businesses, organizations, faith-based groups, government, and individuals to fight for the health, education, and financial stability for everyone in Escambia County. United Way improves lives and builds a strong, healthy community by strategically investing in quality programs, building partnerships, advocating for better policies, engaging people in the community, and leveraging resources, and measures success not by dollars raised, but by lives improved and changed.

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