LEHMAN TOWNSHIP -- There's no doubt the opioid epidemic has changed the lives of people all over our viewing area.
This holiday season, college students in Luzerne County are trying to make a difference in any way they can.
Students at Penn State Wilkes-Barre have been busy making care packages all week. They’re giving food, toys, and gifts to families with someone who is recovering from a heroin addiction.
“That is a process and a struggle that can be a very lonely one. This effort is really about reaching out to those folks and knowing that they're not alone. This campus, our students, and our area police officers are standing with them in this fight,” assistant professor Rick Dierenfeldt said.
Students have partnered up with police departments from all over Luzerne County to get the job done.
On Friday, officers are going to meet at the Wilkes-Barre Police Department to pick up their care packages and hand deliver them to each family.
Newswatch 16 was there last year when members of the Students for Justice Club worked along with officers to give out these donations.
“The parents they were very happy with it but the children especially, you could tell they were really happy. They liked meeting the police officers. It was just a positive experience. It was even more positive than I went in expecting,” student Matthew Caines said.
One of its own members knows what it’s like to have a parent fight an opioid addiction.
Jesse Ragugini said his father lost the battle when he was 57 years old.
“When I was younger, my father got into a bad car accident and he was prescribed opioids. After taking them so long, he became addicted. Sooner or later, the pills weren't cut out for it. He ended up going on heroin and overdosed two years ago,” Ragugini said.
Now, he hopes these donations give families some hope during a difficult time.
“It helps give me that closure, knowing that maybe I couldn't have helped him but I can help other people,” Ragugini said.
Students are already collecting money for next year’s winter care package drive.
If you’d like to get involved, you can send a check made out to the Student Government Association at Penn State Wilkes-Barre. The letter should be addressed to:
Penn State Wilkes-Barre
P.O. Box PSU
Old Route 115
Lehman, PA 18627