School returning to session wasn’t the only big news last week. Our own Crescenta Valley Drug & Alcohol Prevention Coalition received a chunk of change from the federal government in the form of grant money. The Coalition will be receiving around $125,000 per year each year for the next five years. Huge news when you realize how humble the Coalition’s beginnings were.
The Coalition was born of a need here in
the foothills. I attended some of the early meetings at CV High School when there was only a handful of attendees. I came not as a reporter but as a parent to see what this group was all about.
When I first started working at the CV Sun back in 2006 Mary O’Keefe was doing a series of articles on drugs in the foothills. Glendale Police Officer Matt Zakarian knew Mary from those articles. He invited her to join a group of moms that were concerned not only about their children but the harsh reality of drugs in our community. Mary became involved first as a mom, then a reporter. As a reporter, she had spoken at length with the mother of a teenaged son who died in a party house right here in La Crescenta not far from CV High School. This mother lives daily with the question of “What if…?” questioning the decisions she made and how they may have influenced her son’s death. Mary also spoke with convicted drug dealers and the parents of addicted kids who recounted the horrors their children endured in order to get their next fix. A mother herself, it was not hard for Mary to feel the pain that these parents were experiencing.
She recalled those early Coalition meetings and said that there were only about four moms attending along with Matt Z. She said these parents knew firsthand about the drug problem. Matt assured the parents that he wasn’t going to turn them in – he was there to help. Reaching out like he did not only assured the parents, but demonstrated that he knew the meaning of being a “community cop.”
At those early meetings parents were nervous and barely looked anyone in the eye. Susan Dubin who now is one of the most vocal and strongest members of the Coalition at first wanted only to keep a low profile. Today she is one of the driving forces of the organization. From the sheriff’s department, school resource officers Steve Toley and Scott Shinagawa offered their support and provided a unique perspective. They were on the middle and high school campuses every day, building bonds of trust with students who would approach, many times in fear for their friends, with news of some deal about to go down. CVHS Principal Linda Evans from the start was a staunch supporter who offered a place for the Coalition to meet.
Being in the news business in the foothills, you discover all kinds of information including who provides alcohol to their kids. Evil? Not at all. Many believed that the kids were “going to get it anyway” so if they just let their kids drink at home they wouldn’t get into trouble. Some wanted to be a “cool” parent. One thing the Coalition has done is provide a forum for these parents to reconsider their decisions and, more importantly, share these bad choices with others. It is cathartic to not only tell others your story knowing they are going through the same journey as you but also to be able to offer support.
And so the Coalition grew. With these funds, it will be able to continue to reach out to the community. What form that help will take is still unknown. But there is an excitement of what is now possible.