Oct. 2—SCRANTON — Lawrence White Jr. loved Halloween, but he couldn't mask his addiction.
He started smoking marijuana at age 15, and then abused pills and cocaine. His last drug was heroin. He died of an overdose early on Halloween morning in 2010.
From a garage along a narrow alley in West Scranton, his sister works to keep his memory alive. Each year, Dawn Shotto Sherman donates hundreds of Halloween costumes to children — thinking of her brother's spirit and hoping they never face the same challenges.
"I was devastated," she said last week, taking a short break from organizing costumes. "But that's why I do this."
Struggles with addiction
White worked in the construction industry. He loved the Buffalo Bills and Chicago Bulls. Sherman, three years older than her brother, understood his struggles. She once struggled with addiction, too.
"I tried to help him as much as I could," the 48-year-old said. "There wasn't enough I could do."
The day before Halloween 2010, White's mother, Sharon Keen, gave him $50 to take his girlfriend on a date. But he never left his home.
On Halloween morning, Keen made White and her grandson French toast — their favorite breakfast. When White didn't join them, she went to check on him.
The official cause of death on the autopsy: morphine, the substance from which heroin is derived.
When White died in 2010, the opioid epidemic was just beginning. Overdose deaths have skyrocketed since then. Over the last three years, 769 people died from overdoses in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties.
Honoring his memory
The year after White died, Sherman, a certified nursing assistant, sought a way to honor him and raise awareness of the dangers of heroin.
She began collecting Halloween costumes and posted on Facebook. When someone messaged her, she would send the person pictures of available costumes. Sherman and her mother then spent two days delivering costumes between Wilkes-Barre and Forest City.
The first seven years, Sherman and her mom delivered 635 costumes.
Sherman receives some donations and also visits stores to purchase costumes at 90% off after the holiday.
When she moved into her West Scranton home three years ago and finally had a garage, she began offering people a chance to browse. Large totes line shelves in her garage and help fill her attic. She spends days organizing the costumes, placing them by size on racks her husband built. Accessories, including makeup and cat ears, sit on tables.
Many people in the community, including Sherman's friend, Ren Sampson, and Keen, offer to help.
When the garage is stocked, Sherman posts on Facebook about her brother and offers the free costumes to children. People message her for her address, and when Sherman first opens her garage door, usually at the beginning of October, the line stretches down the alley.
Sherman will use vacation days in October to ensure she has enough time to keep her garage open. With the current economy, she expects even more people to seek help this year.
Last year, 638 children received costumes.
"They're so excited when they come through the door. I'm so proud," said Keen, who lives two blocks away and is usually in the garage anytime the door is open. "I love it, because it keeps him going. It keeps him in everyone's minds. It's why we do it."
To learn more about the costume giveaway and to learn the times and location, message Sherman on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dawn.sherman.942.
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