Still a positive influence


Just because he’s retiring doesn’t mean Ellijay’s Marshall Lynch won’t continue to be a positive influence on the people whose lives he has touched during his seven years with the Conasauga Drug Court program.
His goal, Lynch points out, has always been to stay connected with participants in the program, even after graduation, and retirement won’t put a stop to that.
“I sorta have a standing rule that (the participants) have to graduate and then I wanted to remain connected with them,” Lynch said during a surprise retirement luncheon given June 24 by his co-workers at The Chop Shop in Dalton.
Lynch has served Drug Court as a treatment provider for five and a half years full-time before switching to part-time teaching specialty groups two days a week beginning in November 2017. He has specialized in helping participants deal with the trauma they’ve suffered, particularly earlier in life.
“Many times when people have had traumatic episodes in their lives, they tend to repress it and it becomes part of their issues,” Drug Court Coordinator Terry Sosebee explained. “Marshall has been very good at working with these individuals to help with the trauma, to help them get over it and get on with their lives.”
In fact, at a recent graduation ceremony, several Drug Court participants praised Lynch for helping them in their recovery.
Said one female graduate: “Marshall, you have a special place in my heart. Thank you for all the knowledge and advice you gave me. You helped me understand so many things from my past. You helped me to accept myself for who I am and who I am today is good enough. You believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself. Thank you for that!”
Another male graduate said: “Marshall helped me overcome being a victim and showed me I could do anything I set my mind to. He showed me that just because my father didn’t want to be part of my life, it didn’t mean I couldn’t have a connection with someone that could fill the void I had in my life. He showed me love from the beginning and was always there when I needed to let my feelings out. For that, I will be forever grateful. Thank you, Marshall. I feel you were put into my life for a reason.”
Ironically, Lynch could just as easily not have been put into the lives of these participants.
“I live in Ellijay, and I was looking for a new position seven years ago,” he explained. “I had left a rehab center where I was working in Canton, and I never ever thought about working in Dalton. When the job here was posted, it was posted oddly enough on Craig’s List. I never hardly ever look on there, but just one day I happened to go on there, saw it, came over here and interviewed, and started working in Dalton. I never ever thought about this corridor when I was looking – it was always like Blue Ridge or Ellijay or Canton or something like that.”
Now, he jokes that he’s made the trip back and forth between Ellijay and Dalton so many times, “they’ve got a statue of me on (Highway) 282 as I go up the mountain!”
Before his stint in Dalton, Lynch had been a teacher for 12½ years in Marietta City Schools before going back to graduate school and becoming a therapist starting in 1993.
Looking back, he says his decision to work for Conasauga Drug Court was “really the best thing to happen to me,” noting that the position “was kinda like a culmination for me of everything I had learned” over the years.
“I really felt like I grew as a person these last years here … it’s been everything to me,” Lynch said.
Drug Court Judge Jim Wilbanks, for one, is glad Lynch saw that Craig’s List ad.
“Marshall has been, gosh, the backbone of the program,” Wilbanks said. “He was the men’s treatment provider, and he’s just been so much more than that. He’s been an advisor, counselor, leader of everything that we do. His fingerprints are all over this program in a very positive way, and I’m sure Judge (Jack) Partain (Drug Court founder) would agree with that.
“I know when I ask Marshall in a few minutes if we can still call him for his advice and counsel, that he’ll gracefully say yes, I’ll be happy to. He’s just such a great man, standing by himself, but you take his Christian life that he lives and breathes and you move it into the treatment context, and it’s just powerful, nothing short of powerful.”
One way Lynch reached the men in the program has been through a motorcycle program that will keep rolling down the highway despite his retirement, he promises.
“We started a motorcycle riding group of guys in recovery that goes back to guys that graduated three, four, five years ago,” he said. “I hope to keep building that. We all enjoy the sport of riding. The only requirements are that you’re sober, that you’re trying to do good things in your life, and you use that as a connection with other men to do good things. We had a ride about a month ago with seven guys – had several others that couldn’t be there – so I’m hoping to build that gradually as a support system in a different way.”
Another way he and fellow treatment provider Rosafay Lawson have helped men and women in the program build their confidence has been through talent shows, the most recent being in 2017.
“That was one of my happiest moments, I think,” Lynch said. “I took that back from when I was young; they used to have all kinds of talent shows when we were in high school and I always thought what a great way to teach people in recovery to use their gifts. A powerful part of recovery is rediscovering the things that you may have laid aside when you were using and were an addict.”
At the show, participants are encouraged to display whatever their talent might be – singing, painting, drawing, whatever.
“When they rediscover that talent,” Lynch said, “typically they’re better than ever before, and so the talent show was just a chance to showcase that for everybody in recovery and to give them a chance to see, you know what, maybe these are things I laid aside when I was using because that’s all I ever thought about doing back then, but now I know I can still use my gifts.”
Lynch, coincidentally, has talents of his own that he shared at that 2017 show, when he played guitar and sang with participants. He still is a member of a band and also performs with his wife at their church, Ellijay Seventh-day Adventist Church. “We do YouTube concerts for our church online,” Lynch said. “We have done two during the pandemic, and we’re going to continue to do that. We enjoy singing together. She’s actually a better singer than me, but I play and sing harmony with her. That’s a blessing for me.”
In fact, you can watch the next concert on July 11 by visiting the church website at Previous concerts may also be watched online, too.
While Lynch has retired from the Drug Court program, he’s still working two days a week as clinical coordinator at the GreenHouse, a child advocacy/sexual assault center in Dalton, offering services to help victims and their non-offending family members recover from trauma caused by child abuse and sexual assault. He also will continue doing assessments for the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office.
Lynch says he’ll miss his work with the Drug Court. “I got a call this morning from a guy (along with) several messages of encouragement,” he said. “The thing that matters to me is that if I had any kind of impact on them with their families and themselves, it means everything to me. I want to remain close to these people. I want them to be able to reach out to me if they need encouragement or just a word. I tell them I learned more from them than I ever gave back.
“When you sit in a circle with a group of men all those years,” Lynch said, “it changes your life somehow, and I’ll never forget that. In fact, my biggest adjustment when I went down from full-time to part-time was just not getting to sit in that circle every day and hear the feedback of people’s lives and how they grow and how they change. So I learned a lot about that from that group.”