Twenty years ago, in the very early morning hours, a young teenage girl on a trip with her church group knocked on the hotel room door of her chaperones asking for help. She was crying and shaking as she told the story of her friends, boyfriend and classmates pressuring her to use drugs and alcohol. She was concerned that she would lose all of them if she did not participate.
The next night, the chaperones listened to other members of the group share that her story was common in the school district - peers were using drugs and alcohol and you could not be "in with the popular kids" unless you did the same. The adults could not believe things were so bad in this small, rural community.
To develop a plan to support youth, additional conversations were held and led to a public meeting of over 150 people in November 2000 where the Valley Community Coalition was established. The Coalition received grant funding through the Drug Free Communities Support Grant from 2002 - 2012.
As part of the sustainability plan, Coalition members formed a transition team which worked to identify areas of focus to continue with the end of DFC and state mentoring grants. A fund development team was created and fundraising events like the SODA Basket Auction and Turkey River Classic Golf Tournament and Charity Event were continued.
Then in the summer of 2015, to align with the whole-grade sharing partnership of Valley and North Fayette Districts, the North Fayette Valley Community Coalition (NFVCC) was established to serve the almost 1,100 students of the NFV School District. The subgroups of the Coalition were identified as Mentoring, Youth Leadership Initiative, Parent Support, and Community Education.
After moving for the third time since the end of DFC funding, the decision was made to find a more permanent office and youth center space. Fundraising began and less than one year, we raised $125,000 and secured a low interest USDA to cover the cost of building the NFVCC Youth Family Learning (YFL) Center. The school provided a lot on the school grounds for construction and ongoing monthly pledges and rental fees help us pay our overhead and mortgage payments. The YFL Center was opened in October 2016.
The NFVCC is now in year three of a new DFC Support Grant and this has afforded the NFVCC the opportunity to reassess the climate of substance use in our communities. Our Coalition has worked to reduce underage drinking and nicotine use as well as increasing the perception of harm regarding marijuana products.
In addition to the action plan for the DFC, we have created action plans for every subgroup of the Coalition and with a new strategic plan, we have the unified and defined document that keeps all projects, regardless of funding streams, on task.
Our success is due to our community support and funding provided through annual fundraisers, annual appeals, personal donations, foundation grants, County funding, and partner funding through shared activities and mission.
We believe there are some keys to our success:
- Regularly reviewed what was important - what do we have as an opportunity to grow? Where are changes needed?
- Maintain strong partnerships with those that share our mission
- Constantly recruit new members
- Have an action plan and goals for anything you sustain - the structure is important to be able to share what you do with others
- Develop and maintain the strategic plan - what is the goal? This also helps with grants - you already have the mission and vision identified. Find the funding that fits that.
Our membership has ebbed and flowed, but having clearly defined goals and the documents that provide our coalition with structure has established how we conduct our work and recruit new members. It has not always been fun, but it has meant progress for the NFVCC as we work to fulfil our mission "to promote and support the health and well being of youth in the NFV community" for the past 20 years.
Great job, Stacie Schroeder, and the NFVCC Coalition! For more information, contact Stacie HERE.