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250 Gather At Allendale Vigil To Grieve Drug Deaths

Signing the Wall of Remembrance.
Signing the Wall of Remembrance. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
A steady stream of people at the Wall of Remembrance.
A steady stream of people at the Wall of Remembrance. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
One tribute on the Wall of Remembrance.
One tribute on the Wall of Remembrance. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Pastor Jenny McLellan of Calvary Lutheran Church gives the blessings. With her, from the left, are Patty Trava of Franklin Lakes, Lani Bonifacic of Allendale, and Gail Cole of Allendale.
Pastor Jenny McLellan of Calvary Lutheran Church gives the blessings. With her, from the left, are Patty Trava of Franklin Lakes, Lani Bonifacic of Allendale, and Gail Cole of Allendale. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
A moment of contemplation.
A moment of contemplation. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino and Allendale Det. Mike Dillon.
Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino and Allendale Det. Mike Dillon. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
"Recovery rocks" painted with healing messages, compliments of the Akhtarshenas family in honor of their son, James.
"Recovery rocks" painted with healing messages, compliments of the Akhtarshenas family in honor of their son, James. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Jule Rotella sings "Oceans," in memory of Randy Rotella. Accompanying her on guitar is Jason Urena.
Jule Rotella sings "Oceans," in memory of Randy Rotella. Accompanying her on guitar is Jason Urena. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Allendale Mayor Liz White and Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet with a portable household medication drop-off box.
Allendale Mayor Liz White and Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet with a portable household medication drop-off box. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
The candlelight vigil.
The candlelight vigil. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Margaret Hurley singing the closing song, "Tell Your Heart to Beat Again."
Margaret Hurley singing the closing song, "Tell Your Heart to Beat Again." Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash

ALLENDALE, N.J. — Some 250 people, all of whom had lost a loved one to addiction, gathered in Allendale for a candlelight vigil Wednesday night.

The event was organized by Hope and Healing After An Addiction Death , a one-year-old bereavement group that meets at an Allendale church.

As the evening started at The Red Barn at Crestwood Lake, the bereaved hung pictures of their loved ones and wrote tributes on a huge Wall of Remembrance.

In the background, as the sun set, the music of James Taylor played. Taylor writes and sings movingly of his own experiences with drug addiction and loss.

“I am so amazed to see so many here tonight from Allendale and our neighboring communities,” said Allendale Mayor Liz White.

“It takes courage to seek out those who can listen to your stories with acceptance and support you through your journey,” she added.

In the past six years, she noted, there have been 19 overdoses in the borough.

“Tonight we remember eight family members, neighbors, and friends who lost their battle with addiction,” said White, adding Allendale is committed to eliminating the stigma associated with addiction.

Hope and Healing was co-founded by three women – Gail Cole of Allendale, who lost her son, Brendan, in 2014; Patty Trava of Franklin Lakes, who lost her daughter, Cate, in 2014; and Lani Bonifacic of Allendale, a licensed clinical social worker with a Wyckoff practice specializing in grief, trauma, and addiction.

Cole said that, sadly, everyone present was a victim of opiate addiction.

The vigil featured musical performances as well as recognition of the Allendale Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Northern Highlands Regional High School administrators, and many law enforcement officers.

The latter included Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino, Capt. Dave Borzotta of the Bergen County Narcotics Task Force, and Allendale Det. Mike Dillon.

After the candlelight ceremony, some people opted to take the microphone and express both their love and anguish as tears flowed.

“I will always love you,” uttered one mother, eyes heavenward. “No matter what.”

Janet Leach of Park Ridge, whose daughter, Doreen Victoria Leach, succumbed to drug use at age 47, was moved by everything.

She left believing she finally had found a home.

“It’s hard to lose somebody and not talk to any of the neighbors,” Leach said. “You don’t want to go to your children. You have to deal with your own grief. People are able to come here and just share and cry.”

Hope and Healing After An Addiction Death meets the first and third Tuesdays at Calvary Lutheran Church, 165 W. Crescent Ave, Allendale.

For information or to join, contact Lani Bonifacic at 201-786-8572 or LBonifacic@mac.com.

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