A US pastor who founded the Agape House Christian Counseling Center in Hualien County has been posthumously awarded a presidential citation in recognition of his decades-long efforts to help drug addicts.
Frank Bartolatto is one of 12 foreigners, but the first Christian pastor, to receive the honor. Most previous recipients have been from the nation’s military.
Bartolatto died on Nov. 24 last year at the age of 65.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs official delivered the citation on behalf of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to the late pastor’s widow, Annie Bartolato, at a ceremony on Monday.
She expressed gratitude for the honor and said she would continue the center’s efforts to help addicts.
The couple set up Agape House in Sindian (新店) in the then-Taipei County in 1984, to offer counseling and rehabilitation programs to help people recover from drug and alcohol addiction. They later moved the facility to Hualien.
The Bartolattos were both addicted to drugs when they were young. After they realized the negative effects of narcotics abuse — including Annie’s inability to get pregnant — they decided to quit.
Since then, the pair shared their experiences to try and help addicts to recover through a series of activities, such as personal and group counseling, or Christian education.