CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — Earlier this week, the Executive Director of Clarksburg Mission announced his plans to retire. Lou Ortenzio’s journey with the Mission began almost 15 years ago when he joined the organization as the Director of Ministry. After sitting in that role for 10 years, he became the Executive Director back in 2019.

“It’s been a fabulous time here. I’ve learned a lot, and I really feel like I followed God’s plan for my life in being here as the director,” Ortenzio stated.

Ortenzio’s wife retired two years ago and would like to spend time “in some leisure.”

“She’d like to travel a bit, see some areas maybe we’ve never seen, visit children out of state—as West Virginians have a lot of children out of state often, and so, it was really selfish of me in some ways to keep working,” Ortenzio said.

Prior to joining the Clarksburg Mission, Ortenzio was a family physician for more than 25 years. At some point during that time, he became overwhelmed by the workload and struggled with an addiction to pain medication. Ortenzio said that the work was “terribly burdensome at times” and as a result, he used medication that he could access for himself wrongfully.

He also prescribed a lot of controlled substances to many patients, and subsequently lost his medical license due to fraudulent prescribing. “I know I contributed. I was a casualty of the opioid epidemic, but also a contributor to it here. And you know, I really got in a lot of trouble, but I got saved and I got sober. And then I began to turn my life to focusing on help for folks that have those struggles, using my struggles and what I’ve learned, and the relationship with Christ and all that to benefit others,” Ortenzio stated.

Ortenzio said that he’s really enjoyed his career with the Mission and thinks that the organization has done a lot of great work since he’s been there, especially with its focus on addressing the causes of homelessness.

“We really developed a program here that is really a benefit. We offer long-term help for folks who are trying to come out of homelessness, and you know, we have a great staff here,” he said.

Many of the staff members who are now leaders at the Clarksburg Mission actually struggled with homelessness and addiction themselves.

Over the years, the staff has helped develop a program “to really address those causes and we do more recovery work than ever before.” Ortenzio said that the Clarksburg Mission rescues people off of the street and shows them “the way to live.” The organization also “rescues” clothing and food, bringing in these resources to people in need. “We feel like we’re playing a role in revitalizing Clarksburg,” he added.

Ortenzio will officially step away from the Clarksburg Mission next Friday, Sept. 29. Once he retires, Clarksburg Mission’s current Assistant Director, Desi Underwood will step in to fill his shoes as the interim Executive Director.