QUINCY -- Walking out from Blessing Health System's Radiation Oncology Department, Shelley Echternkamp stopped Friday afternoon to hug a former patient.
Echternkamp is jovial and greets all who pass by her in the hallway. Few would imagine that three years ago, the radiation therapist was struggling with her dependence on alcohol.
"I went through a rough time," Echternkamp said. "The first step was admitting that I needed help."
When things were at their worst, the single mother turned to Addicts Victorious Ministry, a faith-based treatment program and United Way of Adams County partner agency, for help.
Addicts Victorious helped her get sober. It also helped her develop a relationship with God.
"I feel like I'm not hiding anymore," Echternkamp said. "I'm present for my son, and I'm aware of everything going on."
Echternkamp completed Addicts Victorious' Biblical counseling program and regularly attends the ministry's support groups.
"Knowing I can go and talk to somebody who has been through it is great," she said. "I love the family I have there."
Founded in 1987 by the Rev. Jerald Jenkins -- the self-proclaimed "worst alcoholic that ever walked the Earth" -- Addicts Victorious is a brief, intensive four-day program that aims to address addiction by taking an in-depth look at an individual's life. Day and night programs are available. Operating under the assumption that the root cause of the various addictions and "problem thinking" areas it treats is a separation from God, Addicts Victorious stresses participation and involvement in church, reading the Bible daily and prayer.
The agency also hosts two weekly support groups in the Horizons building -- an open meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday nights and a women's meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesdays.
United Way of Adams County supports local organizations like Addicts Victorious with money collected from its annual campaign. In United Way's 80 years of existence, nearly 50 different agencies have received part of the almost $40 million United Way has allocated.
"My son and I are able to enjoy a lot more of each other now," Echternkamp said, "and United Way played such an important part in that."
To seek help from Addicts Victorious Ministry call 217-223-1388.