By Jennifer Johnson
Laura Setters’s brother has been an addict since he was 12 years old. When he finally celebrated a year of sobriety, she decided to mark the achievement—and ended up creating a new ministry.
“By the time Michael got sober in 2014, our family had been dealing with his addiction for 26 years,” Setters says. “My mom, Beth, passed away the year before, and she had been the only one who never lost hope in him. I wanted to do something to honor her life as well as Michael’s one-year sobriety anniversary, so I donated to a recovery facility called The Healing Place in downtown Louisville.”
Several months later, Setters received The Healing Place’s annual report and read about a woman who had lost her daughter to heroin and now donated backpacks of supplies to women completing the recovery program. Setters met with her and decided to start a similar program for the men.
“I attend Northeast Christian Church here in Louisville, and they had challenged us to ‘Love the ’Ville’ by serving our city in tangible ways,” she says. “I had been praying about what I could do to show love outside the church walls, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.”
Setters’s small group donated the first round of backpacks, towels, pillows, blankets, and other supplies in August 2015, and she intended the project to be a one-time thing—until she saw the difference it made for the men who received the gifts.
“We give the backpacks to guys who have completed both detox and the two-week program on campus and who have made the decision to stay and do long-term recovery,” she says. “We include a handwritten note of encouragement with each pack, and some of the guys say earning their pack is like a ‘thirteenth step’ in their recovery process.”
Today Backpacks from Beth is a nonprofit organization that donates 25 to 75 backpacks each month. The organization is funded by donations, and supporters have been so generous that Setters may begin delivering the packs to a second facility in town. In addition to donating supplies and money to the effort, a team of volunteers also writes the encouraging notes every month.
“Sadly, addiction is something most people can relate to in some way,” she says. “This is a way for people who have been affected by this struggle to give hope to someone else.”