Sharon Travis, seated in front, founded the "Living Free" program this year. Standing with Travis are, from left to right, are Kenny Assasse (Young Life leader), Travis McKinley (Young Life leader), and Jerimy Mask (Young Life leader).

‘Living-Free’ Program Offers Help For Valley Residents

She believes The Lord continues to work miracles and that guiding Wheeling area citizens addicted to drugs and/or alcohol into rehabilitation can be one of them

And Wheeling resident Sharon Travis wishes to do something about it.

That is why she is launching a new program to assist with the recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Travis explained that “Living Free” is a non-profit Christian faith-based organization dedicated to the mission of helping others who suffer from life-hindering addictions to find a better life through Jesus Christ, using biblical truth and time-tested programs.

“Within a faith-based program we can help each individual on an individual basis, but when you have government bureaucracy involved, there are strict regulations, and that often leads to everyone being treated the same way,” Travis said. “Also, in a faith-based program like this one a person’s spirituality can be involved, and it should be because it’s all connected. Faith is bigger than all of us, and faith gives hope. A lot of people struggling with addiction have no hope.”

The “Living Free” program has launched a website, and it can be found via this address:


Bill Ihlenfled, a Wheeling native who serves as U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of West Virginia, initiated a partnership program in which he has collected members of the area’s education, health, law enforcement, and media communities to join forces with raising awareness. Ihlenfeld’s efforts have included visits with students of several schools and athletic teams throughout the Northern District during the past year.

The reasons why Travis wishes to start the “Living Free” program are both compassionate and personal.

“I am doing this because I know a lot of people who have been affected in one way or another, and I am doing this because my family has been impacted as well,” Travis explained. “We’ve realized a lot of death in this valley the last couple of years. I think everyone knows someone who has had a family member die, or they have known the person who has died.

“It’s made me shake my head when I think why the church has not been active with trying to help,” she continued. “I know that the Teen Challenge program has been very successful for many years, so I believe faith can make a big difference with a lot of people.”

Travis believes that if she gains the support of all Christians in the Wheeling area, huge steps can be taken with raising awareness and with helping those who have made bad decisions with drug and alcohol abuse.

“I want to wake up the Christians in our community and get them involved with making this as successful as it can be,” Travis said. “The people of our community have been hit hard by this issue, and I know there are a lot of people who will want to get involved with this program once they learn about it.

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“I believe people want faith to be involved because I know my faith is calling on me to get involved so we can help the people who need the help,” she continued. “That’s why I want to work with every Christian who wants to get involved so we can make a very positive impact. I truly believe we can have a transformed city that could become a beacon that other cities can look to.”

Sharon Travis, seated in front, founded the "Living Free" program this year. Standing with Travis are, from left to right, are Kenny Assasse (Young Life leader), Travis McKinley (Young Life leader), and Jerimy Mask (Young Life leader).
Sharon Travis, seated in front, founded the “Living Free” program this year. Standing with Travis are, from left to right, are Kenny Assasse (Young Life leader), Travis McKinley (Young Life leader), and Jerimy Mask (Young Life leader).

Travis founded the “Heart 2 Heart” volunteer program in 2013, and according to the website, “Heart 2 Heart is a non-profit Christian faith-based organization whose volunteers are dedicated to the mission of visiting the sick, disabled and elderly. We provide them with what they need spiritually, physically and emotionally to the best that we can. We are advocates for them and raise an awareness for what we believe is becoming a forgotten sector of society.”

The “Living Free” program, Travis explained, will provide those struggling with addiction with the support they need through the healing process and one of her goals is to bring Christian churches and partners together in unity for what she believes will prove to be a life-changing and life-saving mission.

“I hope once Christians of all denominations hear about this program that they see the need,” Travis said. “I hope that all Christians will take a stand against this problem. I believe Christians need to stand together and make a difference.

“We have a lot of different programs designed that will provide the interventions and will address the addict and the addiction,” she said. “This program will be there all the way, from the beginning to the time when the person is on the other side and looking to turn their lives around.”

Thus far, Travis has been joined by 14 individuals who have committed to serve in some capacity, but the organization is still in need of donations and a building in which to operate.

“That is why we are working with our local media outlets to put the call out there to the many communities here in the Upper Ohio Valley,” Travis explained. “We have had several organizations that have made great efforts to raise awareness about the issue of addiction, and I believe that it’s helped, but what about those who have made those mistakes?

“We will be here to help everyone no matter if they are a person of faith or not,” she said. “I truly believe once people find out about this initiative that they will step forward and get involved.”

(Photos provided by Sharon Travis)