The efforts of individuals and organization to help local youth make positive lifestyle choices were highlighted during a recognition luncheon in Swift Current.
The event was hosted by the Drug Strategy Action Committee (DSAC) in the Bridgeway Community Church gymnasium, May 30.
DSAC Chairperson Patti Dekowny felt the luncheon fulfills an important function as part of the organization's annual activities.
“There are a lot of people in this community who are helping youth, helping families, helping other people work towards a lifestyle that’s not controlled or abused by alcohol and drugs,” she said after the event. “So we really want to recognize the positive contributions that are happening. People often are doing these things and no one is aware of it, and so they are just the silent heroes. We really just want to recognize them for all they’re contributing to our community and the positive impact they’re having.”
Local resident Lanna Koethler was the guest speaker at the event. She provided a perspective on the drug culture that exists in the city by sharing her personal story of drug use. She spent some time in jail before turning her life around, and she has begun to talk to young people about her experiences to make them aware of the realities of addiction and to encourage them to avoid that destructive patch.
“She was very powerful,” Dekowny said. “I think it’s good, because her story started in Swift Current and all the things she discussed all happened in Swift Current. It was a powerful story for all of us to hear that things can go wrong in Swift Current. People can get caught up in the drug industry and go to jail and just all those things that we sometimes don’t realize happen when people are using drugs.”
The goal of the DSAC is to prevent and eliminate substance abuse in the community through a focus on prevention, treatment, harm reduction and community justice.
“I think there still is a little bit of hesitancy for people to understand that there is a significant drug problem in Swift Current, and that it’s not just happening in Regina, Saskatoon, Vancouver, or Toronto,” she said. “People have drug problems here in Swift Current as well. Drugs are being sold and I think that’s what’s highlighted in the work the RCMP are doing. They’ve made significant drug busts over the past couple years and they’ve really put an emphasis on reducing criminal activity related to drugs.”
The recreational use of cannabis became legal in Canada in October 2018, and the DSAC has provided information to try to answer people's questions.
“A lot of community members are asking a lot of questions about the legalization of cannabis,” she said. “There are some information packages, for example the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse has guidelines for smoking cannabis. So we’ve just been trying to provide some education.”
A highlight for the DSAC during the past year was to host presentations by well-known media personality and broadcaster Rod Pedersen.
“He spoke at a community event and to the high school students,” Dekowny said. “I think his story was very powerful in that he is a media person on the radio, had dreams, and he shared a really candid story about alcohol abuse. I think we forget that alcohol is still the number one substance that is abused and that causes a lot of difficulties, and so he really highlighted alcohol abuse.”
The DSAC will welcome volunteers who want to assist with the organization's activities. She encouraged residents to visit their Facebook page, where information is provided about upcoming events and where articles are posted to create awareness and education about issues.
Awards were presented in six different categories at the DSAC recognition luncheon. Dan Nickol received the youth advocate award for his contribution in Swift Current since 1997 to help youth in need.
He was a youth pastor at Victory Family Church for 12 years, and he has been a counsellor and mentor to many teens and young adults. He founded Revolution Ministries, which was a downtown youth outreach program in the city before the establishment of The Center. He has been a youth teen speaker at West Bank Bible Camp for over a decade, and he has also helped youth in other countries through his involvement with organizations in Kenya, Rwanda, and Mexico.
Averey Janzen was the recipient of the youth resiliency award. She was nominated by the staff at The Center for working through many family struggles while maintaining a positive focus on academics, athletics, and citizenship. She currently lives independently while attending high school, working part time, and completing a work experience program. She works with inner city children and youth at the Salvation Army's Beaver Creek Camp during her summers.
Lieut. Jeff Giesbrecht, the commanding officer of #259 Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps Drylander, received the youth engagement award. He was a sea cadet from 1984 to 1997, and then joined the Canadian Forces Reserves in 1999 to become a cadet instructor. He has mentored many youth in the sea cadets during the past 20 years and his influence has helped them to make positive life choices.
Maverick School student Ayden Eckert was the recipient of the youth award. He is very involved in his school and community, and he has embraced the benefits of clean living. He is a long-time member of the sea cadets, an active member of the Maverick School Outdoor Education Club, and frontman for the rock band Ayden Eckert and the Time Travellers.
McKenna Harlick, who is in her graduating year at Maverick School, was the recipient of the healthy living award. She has overcome adversity, and she has become confident in herself and in her choices to follow a clean and healthy lifestyle.
The RCMP detachment in Swift Current was presented with the community leadership award for its commitment to crime reduction through drug enforcement. The detachment has launched investigations into drugs and weapons that have made their way into the community, and officers have executed 23 search warrants since 2016 that resulted in dozens of arrests.