Since Georgia is the host state of CADCA’s Mid-Year Training Institute, this week’s Coalitions in Action features the work of a coalition making a positive impact in the peach state. Established in 2003, Early County Family Connection Coalition’s primary goal was to improve literacy and education levels. In 2009, however, the coalition conducted a community assessment and substance abuse prevention was a clear need in the community and there was a gap in services to address this need.
“There were very few prevention strategies at the time in the schools or our community,” said Gwen Houston, Executive Director, Early County Family Connection Coalition. “So we built strong relationships and informal partnerships with different sectors of our community, and our work is starting to bear fruit. Since 2009, we have seen a reduction in alcohol 30-day use, availability and peer/parent approval.”
Early County, which is located in Georgia’s southwestern corner, consists of 516 square miles and has a population density of 21 people per square mile. Of the estimated 10,778 residents, 49.5% are African American and 48.5% are Caucasian. Children under 18 years of age comprise 25% of the population. Poverty, low educational attainment, and limited healthcare access contribute to the community’s poor physical, mental and economic status, and rural Early County suffers disproportionately from all these conditions.
More recently, the coalition observed the need to educate parents and youth on the location and purpose of drug drop-boxes. The coalition wanted a fun way to improve the safe storage of medicine and raise awareness about proper medication disposal so they created the “Where’s The Box?” campaign in 2014. The campaign kicked off with a social media contest to name the friendly cartoon drop box, which was featured in the campaign. Named Rex, the cartoon drop box then made his way around town, appearing at the middle school, community events, and the County Sheriff’s office. Photos of Rex at the different locations were shared on social media.
Coalition staff also conducted “Where’s the Box?” activities at Early County Middle School during lunch periods. Students had their photo taken with fun props and a sign featuring Rex and a location of a drop box. The photos were posted to the school’s and the coalition’s Facebook pages and the coalition continued to use them throughout the year to promote the drop box locations. Students were also encouraged to like the coalition on Facebook and/or follow them on Instagram to win a prize and be exposed to safe medication storage and disposal messaging. More than 350 students participated in one or both of the activities.
The coalition continued the fun and informative campaign by announcing that Rex was missing but he could be found by participating in a scavenger hunt. Posters were displayed in the middle school, paid ads appeared on Facebook, Instagram and the local newspaper, radio PSA’s aired and information was shared on the coalition’s website. Participants took photos of themselves when they found one of the many campaign window clings displayed around town and posted it to social media where coalition staff would respond with educational messaging regarding the locations of the community drop boxes. Over the 10-day scavenger hunt there were 186 entries via Facebook and Instagram.
The coalition is pleased that the “Where’s the Box?” campaign messages and activities resonated with students and parents and knowledge of the community drop boxes increased.
“My advice to other coalitions is to step out of the box and do what works in your community. KNOW your people and partners and keep a good relationship with them,” said Houston.