For the past 5 years, Hope Soldiers has been bringing awareness, restoring hope, and loving people back to life - impacting thousands of people across the country.
This is our story.
On April 8th, 2011, Lindsey Greinke overcame a long battle with addiction. After the opiate painkiller, OxyContin, ravaged through Snohomish County between 2007 and 2009, it disappeared after its formula was changed in 2010, people turned to heroin, which was cheaper and more available. What seemed like a phase turned into a full-blown epidemic in Snohomish County. Lindsey got caught up in the OxyContin boom, and was one of those who reluctantly turned to heroin towards the end of her addiction. After personally going through the state’s process for getting into substance use treatment with no insurance, Lindsey was able to learn how to facilitate getting people into treatment directly. In December 2013, Lindsey decided to organize a community event / town hall at her former high school, Henry M. Jackson in Mill Creek, WA. Initially, Lindsey’s goal with this event was to bring awareness about the rise of heroin, and provide resources and support, after learning of a third person who overdosed from her high school class. Lindsey found that families who were affected by addiction were plagued by guilt and shame, and there was very little talk of it and even less action. The number one goal of this event was to spark a conversation and call the community to action regarding the impending epidemic. It was the first of its kind in regards to this crisis in Snohomish County.
Hope Soldiers was formed during the process of organizing this event. Lindsey worked with the PTA of the high school to bring this event to life, and it was recommended to her by one of the members to pursue becoming a nonprofit organization. Lindsey jumped through all the hoops of the process and founded Hope Soldiers on December 6th, 2013.
The first Hope Soldiers event, called Restoring Hope, was set for January 28th, 2014. The first publication on Hope Soldiers came out in the Everett Herald on the 27th (click to view article: Everett Herald). Lindsey had reached out to motivational speaker and former NFL wide receiver, Trent Shelton, to ask if he would be willing to speak at the event. He agreed, and traveled from Fort Worth, Texas to offer some words of wisdom and encouragement. 185 people attended this event. Two people shared stories of losing loved ones to addiction, and Lindsey shared her testimony. Trent stated that, initially, it was difficult for him to speak after learning about the devastation of addiction. His message of hope tied directly in with the mission at hand; to bring awareness, restore hope, and call the community to action to help love people back to life. The event was extremely well received. So well, that in fact, Hope Soldiers was requested to do another event in Granite Falls High School in the spring. Trent returned for the Granite Falls event, which brought in over 300 people.
As time went on, Hope Soldiers grew. The mission to bring awareness, restore hope, and love people back to life has been carried out through community events, outreach, and mentoring. In 2015, the first person to ever receive help through Hope Soldiers, died from an overdose (R.I.P. Nicholas Vincent Mirante, May 14th, 1995 - February 16th, 2015). This was a devastating loss on many levels, and fueled the Hope Soldiers mission even more.
From 2014 to 2016, Hope Soldiers helped an overwhelming amount of people, without insurance, get into substance use treatment. A Hope Soldiers support group called Restoring Hope in Mukilteo, WA, was a great source of encouragement for individuals and their loved ones during these years. The efforts of Hope Soldiers were covered in dozens of news articles and stories on television, radio, and print. Hundreds of emails poured in seeking resources and support, from this organization that specialized in helping people get into treatment. When the laws changed in 2016, individuals seeking treatment were required to get referrals from agencies contracted through their region’s Behavioral Health Organization; thus rendering it more difficult for those seeking treatment. Hope Soldiers could no longer specialize in helping people get into treatment, and could only help walk people through the process. While this was discouraging, it did not stop the mission or the HOPE movement – Handing Out Purpose Everywhere (HOPE).
The Hope Soldiers events grew to see over 1,000 people in attendance at the annual events in 2015 and 2016. People from all over the world started following the movement via Facebook after Hope Soldiers was mentioned by internet sensation “Hugh Mungus” on h3h3 Productions in September 2016. An especially large national response came in October 2016, after Lindsey participated in the MTV documentary “Prescription for Change: Ending America’s Opioid Crisis,” with Macklemore and former President Obama. Lindsey also participated on a panel, to discuss the opioid crisis and documentary, at the White House, with former Office of National Drug Control Policy, Director Michael Botticelli, and Macklemore. In the documentary, Lindsey takes 20-year-old Alaina Chin with her to do outreach in the Everett, WA. It portrays Alaina’s struggles with addiction and her getting into a treatment center in Tennessee. Alaina is seen returning from treatment about 45 days later, looking happy and healthy. Sadly, Alaina passed away on December 2nd, 2016 from addiction-related complications. (R.I.P. Alaina Michelle Chin, November 10th, 1995 - December 2nd, 2016). With another devastating loss, Hope Soldiers was on hiatus online for the majority of 2017 and focused solely on outreach. In April 2017, Lindsey was awarded the Heroes in Recovery Award just shy of her 6th recovery anniversary. The award is "presented to everyday heroes who aid in the cause of treatment for addiction and mental health issues."
Hope Soldiers closely follows and supports the initiatives of the Snohomish County officials to address the opioid epidemic. Hope Soldiers continues to look for roundabouts and loopholes to the broken process of accessing substance use and mental health treatment in Washington State. The HOPE movement continues, along with outreach, and slowly but surely hope is being restored in the community. The story of Hope Soldiers is not over, and the best is yet to come.