Bar makes donation for suicide awareness

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Members of the Belmont County Bar Association present a $1,000 donation to Jerry’s Walk. Shown from left are retired judge Harry White; Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato; Eastern Division Judge David Trouten; Lucinda Williams, daughter of Jerry Williams, for whom the walk is named; Common Pleas Judge John Vavra, Jeanette Williams, Jerry Williams’ widow; bar association Secretary Grace Hoffman; Probate and Juvenile Judge Al Davies; Magistrate Amy Busic; and Northern Division Judge Chris Berhalter.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Belmont County Bar Association recognized another organization this week by donating $1,000 to Jerry’s Walk, a community organization named in honor of St. Clairsville businessman Jerry Williams that aims to raise awareness about suicide.

“Every year the Bar Association gives a $1,000 donation to a deserving charity,” association Secretary Grace Hoffman said, adding that past donations have gone to Wheeling Health Right, Harmony House and the Belmont County Drug Free Club. “This year the donation is going to Jerry’s Walk, which raises money for suicide prevention.”

She said Jerry’s Walk came to the group’s attention due to its work with groups at risk of suicide.

“We thought it was relevant and deserving,” she said. “They’re getting involved with seniors, they’re getting involved with high school students. We thought it was a worthy cause. Most of us know someone who’s committed suicide and how devastating that can be.”

Jerry Williams was a Kroger area manager who was overseeing 15 stores in the Ohio Valley at the time of his retirement. He formerly served with the Salvation Army board; the United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley; the St. Clairsville Area Chamber of Commerce board; the West Liberty University Foundation board; and the OVAC Foundation. He also was a member of the Saints & Sinners Club. He died as a result of suicide about eight years ago.

“Thank you, everybody, for doing this,” Lucinda Williams of St. Clairsville, Jerry Williams’ oldest daughter, said upon receiving the monetary gift.

“He did a lot for this town and this valley,” she said, adding that after her father retired he became depressed. “It just got worse and worse. He tried to get help but kind of fell through the cracks. … He died two days before his 75th birthday.”

She said the walk has been held for three years in memory of Jerry Williams and of others who suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts.

“Three years ago we decided to do something. The one thing my dad taught me is no matter how bad you feel, somebody always feels worse, and you can help them. Up ’til the day he died, he kept trying to help people, and now we’ve started this, mainly to acknowledge that depression and suicide exist and it’s becoming an epidemic.”

She said word of the event has spread.

“We were surprised. We said if we had 10 people show up the first year, we would consider it a success. We had over 100 — that many people. A lot of people had lost loved ones 30 years ago and never talked about it,” she said, adding the events have seen up to 150 participants.

She said organizers now are concentrating on different communities and age ranges. Past fundraisers have generated money for local schools to enable teachers and counselors to obtain further training.

“Right now we are concentrating on the senior community,” she said, adding that older people are a high-risk group for suicide. “We have several nursing homes and senior residences that are really excited about having the extra money to do the extra things they need to do.”

The walk will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at Memorial Park in St. Clairsville. Lucinda Williams said the sign-up begins at 2 p.m.

“We just walk around the park,” she said. “I think they have two routes, one’s a half of a mile, one’s a mile. You walk as long as you want.”

She added that there is a $20 fee to walk. Veterans walk for free, as do children younger than 12.

“We also work with veterans,” she said, adding that veterans are another high-risk group for suicide.

For more information about the event, visit www.jerryswalk.org.

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