Throughout this past year, Warwick Valley Prevention Coalition (WVPC) aimed to increase their capacity by strengthening partnerships within their community and maximizing on opportunities to collaborate with various sectors. Last fall, WVPC began planning for the year ahead by conducting a youth engagement survey, which gauged students’ interest in substance use and other prevention-related topics. Based on these results, the coalition held several assemblies, presentations, and various events throughout the year that resonated with the youth and provided opportunities for WVPC to involve other local organizations.
“Some successful assemblies included a Marijuana Forum in partnership with the Orange County Stop DWI program, as well as a presentation on suicide prevention for youth with the nonprofit organization, Mallory’s Army. I’m also currently working on organizing a fentanyl presentation with our local Police Department and National Guard Members, which will include Narcan training for parents and a screening of the Dead on Arrival film. Additionally, at each of these presentations, we always set up coalition resource tables and try to invite other organizations that fit into the topic to participate,” explained Francesca Bryson, WVPC’s Coalition Coordinator.
As WVPC reached out and made connections with new partners, further opportunities to collaborate were identified. At a previous Drug Take Back Day event, Francesca connected with the community’s new Chief of Police. During that conversation, she was able to share about the coalition, which ultimately led to the pair deciding to team up and spearhead planning for a National Night Out (NNO) event for their community.
“Prior to this year, our coalition had only held NNO amongst our youth group. By teaming up on this project, NNO went better than either of us expected. Roughly 1000 people attended and over 40 booths were set up for the event. In fact, it went so well that we were awarded ‘Rookie of the Year’, which was a wonderful surprise,” said Francesca.
Another successful event that WVPC spearheaded was a county-wide youth wellness festival. “When I set out to create this festival, I wasn’t exactly sure where to start. I reached out to other local coalitions in the area and pitched the idea for us to collaborate, and everyone ended up coming together to make it a reality. It took several months of planning, but we all pitched in to provide resources, recruit sectors and figure out logistics. Ultimately, we had about 45 booths set up with really cool vendors, including one that created a mock Ninja Warriors course. There were also food trucks, guest speakers, and activities throughout the day, like yoga on the lawn.”
“The festival was the first time we had all partnered together on something so large, and it really helped to build the foundation for a lasting relationship. We now call ourselves the Orange County Prevention Alliance, and we’re currently working on putting up window clings that say ‘Thank you for Keeping our Youth Alcohol-Free’ on 500 different businesses around the area. The Wellness Festival turned out to be the catalyst for working together for the county as a whole, rather than in silos.”
In coalition work, building capacity and engaging all sectors of the community is critical in advancing the awareness of substance use and misuse prevention. WVPC used the power of collaboration to build relationships that provided an immediate and long-term impact on their work.