$100,000 grant to fight drug and alcohol abuse on Westside

The West Kauai Community Coalition is being awarded $100,000 in federal funds to fight the battle on drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse by youth.

The national Drug-Free Communities Support Program has notified the West Kauai Community Coalition (WKC) that the Westside community organization will receive the funds. The WKC is headed up by Ann Wooton.

“The newly re-authorized Drug-Free Communities Support Program provides critical resources to expand prevention programs across America…,” said National Drug Control Policy Director John P. Walters in a written statement.

The grant awards were announced Thursday at the U.S. Capitol at a ceremony attended by John P. Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy; Mary Ann Solberg, Deputy Director; Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA); Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.); Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.).

“We are committed to providing national leadership and resources to those working to prevent drug abuse at the community level,” Walters said.

The WKC applied for the grant in April, according to Wooton. Organization members are planning to use the money to expand current programs and organize new activities for Waimea High and Waimea Canyon Intermediate students.

The federal grant will allow the coalition more flexibility to target families and the whole community, she said. “Giving the kids some alternatives” is the best way to use the grant money.”

Some of the programs being implemented now include a “resilience camping retreat” where teenagers in the Smart Leaders program through the Waimea Boys & Girls Club invite friends and classmates to learn ways to turn down drugs as well as camping skills.

The Boys & Girls Club is putting on classes to teach kids to cook nutritious foods. The Historic Hanapepe Town Association sponsored a surf movie night at Waimea Theater, where they awarded door prizes including a surfboard and some bodyboards, Wooton said.

“Alcohol is still a problem. It takes time to change people’s attitudes and show them alternatives; we’re not trying to tell people to quit drinking; just let them see that you don’t need a beer to have a good time,” Wooton said.

Grants were also awarded to organizations in other small towns and Native American communities in 10 states, which have been hit hard in recent years by drug problems that have historically plagued big cities, Walters said.

“It’s supposed to be used for drug intervention in the community, to help provide alternatives for youth that might seek out drugs,” said Robert Westerman, president of West Kauai Business and Professional Association.

In July, the Department of Justice awarded a similar grant of $75,000 through DFCSP to the Kawaihau District Leadership Coalition, which supports prevention activities like “Project Graduation,” a substance-free graduation night party, and the Coconut Festival, a community arts and culture event.

The Waimea Boys & Girls Club’s “Smart Leaders” program, which teaches peer leadership and drug prevention, is just one of the organizations that will benefit from the West Kauai Community Coalition grant.

Money can also be used to purchase drug-free banners and signs, organize drug-free events for kids and teens.

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

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