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Friday, 02 June 2017 04:49

Drug Task Force recognizes positive contributions at awards luncheon

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Sean Finell (at left) presents the community leadership award to Ron Toles at the Swift Current & District Drug Task Force awards luncheon, May 25. Sean Finell (at left) presents the community leadership award to Ron Toles at the Swift Current & District Drug Task Force awards luncheon, May 25.

The Swift Current & District Drug Task Force hosted an awards luncheon at the Great Plains College campus on May 25 to recognize the efforts of individuals and organizations to have a positive impact in the community.

Their actions are done in a selfless manner and this luncheon is an opportunity to acknowledge their contributions.
“They’re just doing it, that’s their natural way,” Drug Task Force Chairperson Patti Dekowny said after the event. “So we just really want to highlight what they've done and to point out that we appreciate what they're doing. They don't know they're being nominated for these awards. They’re surprised when they get them in the mail.”
The awards luncheon is an opportunity to highlight positive role models in the community and three of the awards acknowledged youth.
“The students that have been awarded are young leaders doing lots of other things, but are showing leadership qualities in the community and are known to be people who don’t use drugs or alcohol,” she said.
The goal of the Drug Task Force is to prevent and eliminate substance abuse in the community. The luncheon is a way for the organization to reflect on success stories.
“We often hear just about the negative things that are going on in the community with drugs and alcohol, and I think it is really important to recognize people are making positive changes,” she said. “There is positive programming, there are young leaders in our community, and I think it is really important to recognize some of the successes we’ve had in the community in terms of drugs and alcohol.”
There were two speakers at the luncheon. Henry Klassen spoke about his stepson's struggle with drugs and alcohol. He received treatment for his addiction, but three years ago he died of an overdose. Klassen said it was important for parents to educate themselves and their children about substance abuse.
Taylor Watson shared her story about the impact of drugs on her life. Her substance abuse started as a teenager, when she was trying to deal with bullying, but she was able to deal with her addiction before it destroyed her.
Awards were presented in six different categories. The Family Resource Centre received the community programming award for offering services that help to build strong families. The Let's Play program, which promotes bonding and learning, has grown from about 10 families to 70 families during the past year.
The Family Resource Centre hosts a New Year's Eve party for families in partnership with the Family Support Network. Attendance at this event grew from 150 in 2014 to over 500 people in 2016. It gives families the opportunity to participate in a New Year's Eve party that is substance free.
The youth leadership award was presented to Hailey Neustaeter, a Grade 12 student at Swift Current Comprehensive High School. She has been a member of the school's business club since its inception two years ago, and this year she is a member of the graduation committee that helps to plan the graduation ceremony and to organize activities for graduates. She volunteers for a variety of activities, she is motivated and hard-working, and she is a good role model for students.
The youth positive lifestyle award was presented to Jack Tonner, who is graduating this spring from Maverick School. He has made positive lifestyle changes, he became a tea drinker, he has focused on improving his music skills and he volunteers at the Lyric Theatre.
Sara Cronan, a Grade 10 student at Swift Current Comprehensive High School, received the youth activism award. She is a member of the school's business club and has participated in provincial debate competitions, she is an active member of the student leadership council, she is an advocate for women's rights, and she recently attended the Montreal Forum for the Canada 150 and Me challenge.
Siblings Tom and Charmaine Westbury received the community builders award for their tireless efforts and dedication to the project to construct Dorie's House, an emergency shelter for homeless youth in southwest Saskatchewan that opened its doors in January.
Retired teacher and current City councillor Ron Toles received the community leadership award. He taught 37 years in the public school system and another 10 years at the college. He was involved with Students Against Drinking and Driving as well as Canadian Youth Against Impaired Driving for 15 years, he was the chair of the Palliser Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission board, and he is an active member of the Drug Task Force.
The Drug Task Force was active during the past year. It hosted presentations by well-known drug and alcohol educator Rand Teed. He provided presentations to students at Maverick School and Swift Current Comprehensive High School as well as to community members and parents on the same evenings.
“We feel that is important that both the students and the parents and community members are gaining the same information,” Dekowny said. “He has many years of experience working in the area of drugs and alcohol.”
The prevention pillar of the Drug Task Force sponsored the family swim at the Aquatic Centre during family week, which was a great success.
Another successful event was the teen glow-bowling event for middle year students at Frontier Bowling Lanes, which was attended by about 54 students. They were able to have a good time in a drug and alcohol free environment.
The Drug Task Force will continue with these established activities for the prevention pillar, including the Rand Teed presentations and the family swim.
“Then we’re always trying to build on our other pillars, which are treatment, harm reduction and community justice,” she said.
The federal government is expected to legalize marijuana before the end of 2018, but Dekowny does not anticipate the Drug Task Force will change its approach as a result of that legal change.
“I don’t think our role will change, because alcohol is a legal substance right now and alcohol is the number one used substance and the number one substance causes the most problems,” she said. “So I think it won’t change what we do, just that we still have to provide a lot of education and get the information out there.”

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Matthew Liebenberg