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Bryan County Drug Free Coalition gets $625,000
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The Bryan County Drug Free Coalition, a group initiated last year by Bryan County Family Connection, was awarded a $625,000 federal grant to help enhance its programs.

Starting this year, the Coalition is slated to receive $125,000 per year over a five-year period. Coalition Chairman Gini Nichols said this will give the group a huge boost and will help greatly to create an awareness of and help address the local drug and alcohol problem among young people in Bryan County.

Members of the Bryan County Drug Free Coalition include local parents, students, law enforcement officers, business people and city, county and school officials. Members meet once a month to devise strategies to tackle substance abuse within the Bryan County community.

Nichols said the group had several programs on the table that require funding to get off the ground, and they will now see the light of day. Included in this is hiring a full-time coordinator to manage the coalition’s projects.

The group also discussed erecting some billboards in the county about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, creating an after-school program and curriculum under the name Youth Education Awareness or YEA.

"Getting this grant is a big step for this coalition," Coalition member and BCFC Coordinator Wendy Sims said. "For one thing, it will help us get out some public relations materials to help create some awareness for the group and what we’re trying to accomplish."

The slogan "Don’t gamble with your life," along with matching artwork depicting a slot machine will be used on billboards, T-shirts and balloons – all funded by the grant money. The saying and art was created by Richmond Hill Middle School student Makayla Peny, who won a coalition-conducted contest in May.

The coalition, in its initial meetings last year, identified alcohol as a local problem and decided to conduct research before identifying what drugs are the most problematic in Bryan County. Since then, marijuana has been targeted.

In addition, former BCFC head Tara Jennings said they are continuing to look at prescription drugs which she said is a rising problem in the area.

Nichols added that the group still needs more members and anyone and everyone in Bryan County is welcome to join.

She said, in particular, the group could use more local business people and faith-based volunteers. For more information or to join the group, call 572-5778.

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