Coalitions in Action – Turning Point Coalition Listens to Community Prevention Partners

“Turning Point Coalition is dedicated to preventing substance use and misuse and to creating a community environment that will keep youth alcohol, tobacco and drug free,” said the coalition’s Prevention Specialist Kristie Skaggs.

“In 2005, a group of citizens gathered to change our local landscape,” said Skaggs. “Alcohol, drug and tobacco use among youth was our main concern. Through education, information, resources and advocacy, we're trying to make a change in and around Orrville, a small rural Ohio community about an hour from Cleveland and Columbus.”

“Due to its location and the railroad that runs right through town, Orrville is known for its industrial subculture, and its largest manufacturer is the J.M. Smucker Company,” said Skaggs. “Orrville is home to about 8,500 residents, making it a closely-knit community.”

“We are poised to make our community a healthy place for youth and families,” said Skaggs. “We mainly serve the Orrville city schools, but our efforts reach neighboring communities through our work with our local career center as well.”

“Our community is so highly engaged and supportive to its citizens that sometimes it is difficult to find our unique space,” said Skaggs. “We are challenged to find efforts that are not already supported in our community. As such, it can be hard to connect with the right partners to get behind the substance use prevention environmental approach. We hope to create innovative and unique ways to invite community members to join our discussions, unite with us in our cause, and commit to continuing with us long term.”

“We are particularly proud of the youth who have gotten involved in our Teen Institute: Riders as Peer Advocates,” said Skaggs. “This youth leadership group focuses their efforts on preventing youth substance use. One of their greatest efforts is providing regular vaping prevention presentations in the middle school.”

“Additionally, Turning Point has a strong partnership with the Orrville Public Library,” said Skaggs. “Two of our most popular events are the Hometown Tailgate Party and Pizza & Books. Both of these community outreach projects provide fun, safe and substance-free environments for our youth. Building these positive connections implements protective factors that help in reducing youth’s access to and desire for substance use.”

“Good relationships are the basis of all our most successful efforts,” said Skaggs. “Without a positive relationship with the school, our Teen Institute group could not meet or receive speaking privileges at the middle school, and the library is so welcoming to our efforts that it makes the events easy to plan and sustain.”

“As our coalition increases community engagement, the number of enthusiastic people attending our meetings has grown,” said Skaggs. “We have created and maintained a mutually beneficial exchange of information with the police department, school board president and the library. The library provides a wonderful avenue for engaging families in true asset-building, such as inspiring parents to spend more time with their kids and encouraging youth to read more.”

“Facilitating these vital connections has also fostered better relationships with the school’s sports programs, because the Tailgate event offers free tickets to a home football game for middle schoolers,” said Skaggs. “Our TI group members also have the opportunity be the Orrville High School mascot at coalition meetings and various sporting events.”

“One way we have tried to re-engage with our community is through bringing in outside speakers to our coalition meetings,” said Skaggs. “Giving a platform to teachers, law enforcement, local government and others helps our coalition learn first-hand what is happening in our community and how we can further those already existing efforts with a strong prevention message. Instead of trying to create brand new programs from scratch, we search for ways to partner with people and organizations that are already making a difference in our community.”