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Coaliation fights underage drinking
Coalition Chairman Gini Nichols gives a presentation about underage drinking in Bryan County. Among those in attendance were BoE Chairman Eddie Warren, BCSD Capt. Mike Maxwell and Richmond Hill Youth Advisor Heather Walker. - photo by Photo by Ross Blair

Bryan County Family Connection has initiated a coalition that is attempting to attain $500,000 in federal grant money to combat underage alcohol and drug use in Bryan County.

The first step began Thursday evening at the Wetlands Center in Richmond Hill where BCFC invited numerous individuals for a meeting to discuss the initial game plan.

BCFC board member and coalition chairman Gini Nichols said the goal of this coalition will be to locally curtail underage drinking and also one other drug. She said research will be conducted in order to properly identify what the most problematic drug is with local youth.

The grant the group is attempting to get is a maximum of $100,000 a year for up to five years. BCFC Director Tara Jennings said the funds will give the coalition the backing necessary to make a profound impact on underage drinking and drug use regarding local youth.

A video on underage drinking was shown which indicated that 7,000 kids under 16 take their first drink each day. The film also reported these kids become four times as likely to be alcohol dependent as adults. Nichols and Jennings then gave a power point presentation showing many of the dangers of underage drinking and drug use and how recent surveys have shown it is widespread in Bryan County. This included slides provided by BCSD Captain Mike Maxwell of fatal auto accidents that occurred locally and were linked to alcohol use.

After the presentation, a clipboard was passed around the room with a sheet for individuals to sign up for the coalition. After doing so, many stated their motivation for joining. Here are some of the comments from enlisted coalition members:

- Pembroke Mayor Judy Cook: "I think this is great. If you look at the statistics, you will see that this sort of movement is much-needed in Bryan County. Enough is enough and its time for the community to say it."

- Bryan County Commissioner Rick Gardner: "It’s amazing how much we have desensitized ourselves to this problem. I admit to doing it myself, which makes me part of the problem. I have come here today to take a stand and be part of the solution. We have to start taking our communities back. We can do this through awareness of this problem."

- BCSD Capt. Mike Maxwell: "I think it’s important that we reach the youth of our community so that we can try to stop a problem before it blossoms into a larger one. If you reach some of these kids at a young age, they may not be getting into the kind of trouble that I’ve witnessed in my tenure here at Bryan County."

- BoE Chairman Eddie Warren: "We need to do everything we can to help the youth of today, who are our future."

- Pembroke Telephone executive and former BoE candidate Noah Covington: "I’ve got a 14 and 16-year-old and I worry about them out there."

- RHPD Chief and BCFC President Billy Reynolds: "If you look at our arrest records, you will see that so many of them are a result of alcohol or drug use. One of the more recent statistics that alarms me is the suicide rate in Bryan County and the fact that much of this can be traced to this same topic. In Richmond Hill alone, we’ve had 16 attempts in the past year – and close to 30 for the entire county."

To get involved, call 572-5778.

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