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Back-to-School Summer Bash

Hosted by: Leaders Advancing and Helping Communities

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Please briefly describe your Communities Talk activity.

The Back-to-School Summer Bash was an in-person event held at Swapka Park on September 4, 2021, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The event featured a school supplies giveaway, free food and ice cream, a mini food pantry, a dunk tank, and resource tables. At the event, the Advocate, Collaborate, Treat (ACT) Drug-Free Community Coalition gave away more than 500 backpacks filled with school supplies to the communities of Dearborn Heights and Inkster. Partners for this event included the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network, Dearborn Heights Police Department, Dearborn Heights Parks and Recreation Department, Molina Healthcare, Eternal Light, and individual contributors.

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How does alcohol and other drug misuse affect your community?

It affects the ZIP codes the ACT coalition serves. Extreme poverty has led to high levels of substance use, including alcohol among youth. Alcohol dependency may exacerbate already existing mental health issues, such as depression, in a still-developing brain. This leads to withdrawal from one’s community and can permanently alter a person’s life path, meaning it is our job as a Drug-Free Community Coalition to prevent as many youths as possible from consuming alcohol. With enough consistent messaging and youth outreach, our goal is to see a drug- and alcohol-free Inkster and Dearborn Heights.

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What goal(s) did you hope to accomplish with your Communities Talk activity?

  • Reduce prevalence of underage drinking and other substances in community
  • Create an ongoing conversation about underage drinking and substance use prevention in the community
  • Foster collaboration between community stakeholders for continued underage drinking and substance use prevention activities
  • Awareness and enforcement of social host laws) to support prevention of underage drinking
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What challenge(s) did you face in planning your activity this year?

  • Particularly severe or resistant substance use issues in our community
  • Inexperience hosting Communities Talk activities
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How did you overcome these challenges?

Like all Drug-Free Community coalitions, ACT represents 12 sectors of our community. At every event, our goal is to accurately reflect these sectors and integrate them into event planning. Keeping the interests of each sector in mind simultaneously was a daunting task, but with enough forethought and consideration of each group’s needs, we were able to ensure that the event was enjoyable for everyone, whether a youth, parent, or police officer. Creating an interlocking framework of community members is essential to creating a support network for youth to lean on in difficult times. Knowing this, it was essential to have a robust representation of each sector while planning the summer bash, as strong community connection could be the difference between a child using alcohol and a child developing healthier coping mechanisms when difficult times inevitably arise.

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What are your next steps?

  • Expand our coalition with new partnerships in the community
  • Support new prevention policies, legislation, or social ordinances
  • Conduct research efforts to learn more about issues in our community
  • Create a public education campaign to raise awareness and/or change behaviors around underage drinking (i.e., create PSAs and other promotional materials)
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Which Communities Talk resources (or other SAMHSA resources) were most helpful for your activity?

  • StopAlcoholAbuse.gov website
  • Communities Talk website
  • Communities Talk social media content (e.g., Facebook, Twitter)
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Who did you involve in your activity planning, and who did your activity impact?

Youth played a large role in the event, with three youth organizations pitching in to make the event a hit. Students in the Crestwood High School Key Club, Crestwood National Honor Society, and Annapolis High School Key Club lent their time and effort to give back to their community. Furthermore, ACT’s project coordinator, Mara Phillips, partnered with the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network, Dearborn Heights Police Department, Dearborn Heights Parks and Recreation Department, Molina Healthcare, Eternal Light, and individual contributors in this event. The event’s target audience was both youth and parents, and we effectively reached them through free school supplies and resources for the parents and fun games for the children.

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Did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the planning or execution of your activities?

Although COVID-19 is an unfortunate reality in today’s world, we managed to lower the risk of transmission by hosting the event outdoors and encouraging masks. Allowing people to roam Swapka Park ensured social distancing and plenty of fresh air. Luckily, the weather cooperated, and the event was a hit while being safe too.

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