North Alabama's Drug Addiction: Memory of addict in recovery helping save lives

Each basket is made entirely with donated items.

Posted: Sep 17, 2021 6:41 AM
Updated: Sep 17, 2021 12:32 PM

It started with an unfinished list.

"It's in Zach's handwriting,” Hunner Sandifer said.

A sign from God.

"It has everything of what I would find and how much it would be,” Hunner said. "Towel, wash cloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, food, nonperishable items, toiletries, just basic necessities."

Those items helped Zach Sandifer recover from his opioid addiction. Now, those same items are being used to help others.

“God had bigger plans, so right now, as far as I'm aware, I'm distributing to every single halfway house in Morgan County,” Hunner said.

These baskets, now fill up her garage. She is working to fulfill Zach’s wishes of helping men and women battling addiction.

"He wanted to be on the way to starting a ministry that does outreach or that can reach people like him and the whole point of Zach packs is to show others the love and compassion that he had for everyone when he was still alive,” Hunner said.

Addiction did not take Zach’s life. On June 4, 2020, he died in a wreck off I-65. A friend called Hunner that morning after seeing the wreck.

"Immediately in my gut something was wrong,” Hunner said.

She called Zach but he did not pick up. He also did not show up to work. Hunner eventually left work and drove to the scene.

"I took off running to him and I said, I need to know if this is my fiancé, I need to know. I said his name is Zach Sandifer, he's six foot, he's got brown hair and green eyes and he's wearing a ball cap and I need to know if its my fiancé,” Hunner said.

Authorities told her to wait at the scene. As she sat on the back of a police car, she saw the coroner drive by. Moments later, her worst fear became a reality.

"Instead of planning our wedding, I had to plan his funeral,” Hunner said.

Even though Hunner still feels a part of her was taken that day, she knows Zach’s story lives on.

"This is how I'm keeping Zach alive, in mine and my family and his family, this is how I'm keeping him alive,” Hunner said.

Since January, she has passed out 407 Zach Packs. She often delivers them herself and has grown close to those who knew Zach.

"He was just one of the first ones that came up to me, he took me under his wings, calmed me down, told me things were going to be OK,” Jaramie Fairbanks said. “We ended up working at the same plant. he just coached me along during those first few really rough months.

Fairbanks is now three years sober and is constantly reminded of what Zach always stood by.

"God puts certain people in your life at certain times and I firmly believe he put Zach Sandifer in that place to save my life,” Fairbanks said.

Hunner’s goal is to expand and reach more halfway houses throughout Alabama. Each basket is made entirely with donated items. To learn more on how to get involved, click here.

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