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On the front lines in the fight against meth

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When Jim White stood in front of the West Linn Rotary Club last week, he didn't mince words.

'I've got a problem, and the problem is money,' said the Lake Oswego CPA as he accepted the club's Service Before Self award.

Several months ago, White was one of the most unlikely of folks to get involved in - no, lead the front line - in the fight against methamphetamine. Today, White can say he coordinated a successful campaign to get the documentary 'Crystal Darkness' aired on all Portland-area news stations. He was there in the call center as every one of the 60 phone lines were busy in the minutes following the documentary, which was televised commercial-free Oct. 9 during an evening airtime 'roadblock' donated by all of Portland's, as well as Eugene's and Medford's, TV stations. The documentary provided a call line following the broadcast referring people to ways to get help.

'To see all 60 of the phones occupied for 20 minutes straight just confirms that there was a need out there,' White said.

Now White is on the line for around $100,000 for the printing of related booklets he's hoping to distribute to schools statewide and other costs related to getting the documentary on the air.

You would think White has a dog in the fight, perhaps has been personally affected by meth. Not so. He's never had a loved one addicted to the drug. He never even knew anyone who had taken meth.

But that was four months ago, when White was referred to similar efforts going on in Reno, Nev., through the organization Christ@Work, of which he is a member. Christ@Work is a faith-based organization that promotes evangelism at the workplace.

He and friend and fellow Christ@Work member Randy Glanz, a West Linn resident, had worked together before to help a neighbor rebuild their house after it was lost to a fire. And Glanz owns a video production company, making it a perfect fit.

Glanz declined the Rotary Club award, saying he refused to accept individual honors for his volunteerism.

So White and Glanz set off to Reno to see firsthand the impact the film would have there. And they were sold, White said. Over the course of the next few months, the two underwent a crusade of sorts to bring the film to Oregon.

And just by getting the message out at work, in their churches and meeting with representatives of local TV stations, they got the air time donated, the costs of printing flyers to promote the documentary covered and local publications (including the Pamplin Media Group, the parent company of the Lake Oswego Review and West Linn Tidings) on board in the promotion.

And now White, who was never one to be publicly involved in advocacy of any kind, is entrenched in a very visible cause.

'I have just been educated far beyond what I ever wanted to be,' White said. 'For a yo-yo like me to have even completed something of this magnitude was ridiculous to even think about. … To believe Randy and I could have pulled off anything like this was beyond my comprehension.'

White and Glanz never hesitate to say the motivation and the strength to complete the project came directly from their faith in God. The 'Crystal Darkness' also doesn't hide its faith-based message, which has drawn some criticism. The film's message of going deep into the horror stories related to the drug also has drawn question of its effectiveness.

Oregon public health officials don't buy into the scare tactics in their battle against the drug. Which, White admits, may be a roadblock in getting the state's help in distributing the 350,000 booklets he has sitting and waiting for a home where they will be used.

White doesn't question whether the film helped. He's got the experience of being in the call center for evidence. He now has co-workers coming up to him thanking him and offering their personal horror stories related to meth.

Whether it's the most effective way to battle the drug, White really can't say. He can say it was the most effective way for him to help in the fight. And the more help the better, he said.

'If this just kept one person from getting into meth, from a family man's perspective, that would have been worth the dollar value,' he said. 'And if this helps one person to get away from meth, it will have been worth it. …We're kind of all in this together. If you've got a better idea than you take it and run with it.'

White is hoping that a similar confluence of events and gathering of people, which allowed 'Crystal Darkness' to air in the first place, comes together to help continue the fight. He's hoping to get help from the Oregon Legislature and the Governor in distributing the booklets to schools and other organizations that will help in furthering the anti-meth message.

As for the money it took to print the booklets, White said he's willing to empty his pocketbook to pay for it. But if there are people out there who want to help monetarily, he's ready to accept the help.

'This story is about a guy who was in the right place at the right time, or the wrong place at the wrong time,' White said. 'That said, I needed to help.'

And now it's time to lend White a hand.

Tax deductible donations can be made payable to Crystal Darkness-Oregon Partnership and mailed to 4500 SW Kruse Way No. 200, Lake Oswego, 97035.

Dan Itel is the editor of West Linn Tidings.