Coalitions in Action—Warrick County Cares – Building Capacity Through Promotion

“Our coalition, Warrick Country Cares is an affiliate of Youth First, which is our lead fiscal agent.  Warrick County Cares’ vision is to be a community of healthy, productive families, free of drug and alcohol-misuse that engages in community and educational activities to present ourselves as positive role models,” said Margery C. Gianopoulos, Assistant Director of Programs, Youth First and Warrick County Cares Coordinator. “We were awarded the DFC grant in 2013 and are getting ready to enter Year 9! From the beginning, one of our key strategies was to celebrate our accomplishments.”

“This was our eighth I Care Awards, but due to COVID, this was the seventh time we’ve held it in person, so that’s why we refer to it as the 7th I Care Awards.  We thought we needed to celebrate the community and celebrate what we’ve been able to accomplish, especially given all the challenges the last year has given us in the country.  This year, for the first time, we had multiple honorees for each category.  We decided to have a gathering with local stakeholders, government, and all the sectors and community members represented.  Our aim is simple – we look to recognize individuals, organizations and youth that go above and beyond their call to duty by giving back to the community.”

“This year we had 3 individuals, 3 organizations, 2 middle-school and 3 high-school teens nominated; the most we’ve ever had.  It then comes to our coalitions and our members to vote on the recipients of the I Care Awards. We make it a point to highlight all nominees though. At the end, we also award a Coalition Member of the Year, to an individual or group within our coalition that was integral in the successes of the past year.  This year it went to our local library, who helps us coordinate and conduct all our meetings, which was paramount this past year.”

“Due to the pandemic and working our way back to normal as a community, we decided to hold this year’s event outside. We had law enforcement, several county council members, the superintendent of schools among the members of the community who attended.  Our coalition chair said “It’s so nice to have a meeting and not to have to worry about muting your mic on Zoom!” She introduced our guest speaker, Dr. Ronald Rochon, CADCA Board of Directors member and President of the University of Southern Indiana. He spoke so authentically about how substance use disorders affect those who suffer from it and their family members but can also teach us so many lessons from those experiences that can help in the long-term.  He also spoke directly to teenagers and was so engaging and supportive of them and how they are able to look beyond the negativity we hear about so often and focus on positive change.”

“A huge part and reason for this event is capacity building through promotion. We want to let others in the community know what we’re doing, how we are affiliated with all these other organizations and how we’re making an impact, so that we raise awareness and participation in our coalition’s efforts.  This year, among other initiatives, we were able to distribute hand sanitizers, continue our social norms campaign - even when schools shut down -and continued our Positive Ticket campaign which has teachers honor their students with tickets, equating to a $10 Amazon gift card and a letter home, signed by the coalition chair and the school principal. In fact, over 2,000 kids in the last 7 years have received a Positive Ticket.”

“I then read the bios and achievements of all the nominees.  We hear so many negative things these days in the media that it’s nice to have some positivity spoken so people know that are good things happening in this world.”

Overall, this is such a great opportunity to speak to the great things that are happening in our county.  It really brings us all together.  There is no other event that gives our community the chance to come together like this.  Last year obviously brought challenges to holding an event like this, but we were able to pivot and share information about the nominees and recipients through an email campaign, which worked out really well.  That being said, it just felt good to be back together in-person and this was our first opportunity to hold an in-person event such as this. We are already looking forward to next year’s nominees!”