*Craig Roberts said he’s been shot and been shot at.

But his life has been even more desolate. After several of his relatives died in a short period — including his wife from cancer — Roberts went through the lowest point of his life dealing with anger and an addiction to crack cocaine and alcohol.

“My mother died and I got off the cocaine because I knew I didn’t have her to fall back on anymore,” he said. “My sister had been trying to get me to go to church, but I just wanted to drink every day after my wife died. There was a pistol on one side of me in the bed and a gallon of booze on the other. Then it was like my wife appeared to me and said, ‘You can’t live like this.'”

Roberts believes his sister’s prayers and those of others at the True Gospel Pentecostal Church in Dalton made the difference. The same is true for many in the local black community.

For them, leadership doesn’t come from politicians. It doesn’t stem from the chamber of commerce. It comes from the church. It begins at the pulpit with pastors, said Tom Pinson, director of the Dalton-Whitfield Community Center.

“I think the church is the beginning of the solution to social problems,” he said. “When you get your head together as to why you’re here, you can start having an impact in the community.”

One pastor with a dual role in the community is Rod Weaver. He has not only pastored Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church in Fairmount for 23 years, but he also serves as the administrator of Dalton’s new Northwest Georgia Day Reporting Center, a state Department of Corrections program that helps criminal offenders with substance abuse problems get their lives back on track.

“The underlying problem is a breakdown in the family structure,” Weaver said when asked about societal ills that are not just in the black community. “The reason for that is there is no accountability. When there’s only one parent in the home it makes it extremely difficult for that parent to hold their children accountable.

“When families no longer have two parents it makes it difficult to pay the bills and raise the children too,” he said. “Drug and alcohol abuse compounds problems in the family structure.”

Weaver was asked if lingering racism exacerbate the issues.

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