Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Working Together for a Drug Free Community

Sometimes is good to be a fly on the wall.  Recently, my antennae picked up a conversation about some possible money that could be available to communities to help fund some work around drug and alcohol prevention. 

Now while the Drug Free Communities grant is usually posted in January, I thought it might be a good idea to give a few of the NYC partnerships the heads up so they could begin working on some of the more specific requirements usually called for in the proposal.

Good News - The grant is for five year at 125,000 per year to fund community partnerships in addressing the community level risk factors of underage drinking and substance abuse.  Communities have been able to apply for no more than ten years. 

The grant is given to established community partnerships around for a minimum of six months of formal activity.  It follows the Strategic Prevention Framework and requires the group to have specific components at the time of applying.  These include:
  • The coalition must have at least one representative from the required 12 sectors, as outlined in the RFA and the Drug Free Communities Act of 1997;
  • The coalition must maintain meeting minutes that demonstrate that it is a unique entity that has substantial involvement from its members and is working toward to the two goals of the DFC program;
  • The coalition must address multiple (more than one) drugs per year in its annual Strategic/Action Plans for each year of funding;
  • The coalition must have as its principal mission the reduction of youth substance use;
  • The coalition has not already received 10 years of DFC funding; and
  • The coalition must capture and provide the data required by the DFC National Evaluation.
So, consider this your six month wake up call.  If you have been looking for another incentive to continue the great work that your partnership has been doing or just looking for an excuse to motivate and galvanize the troops...look no further.   While the DFC grant is not an absolute guarantee, it will help strengthen your group and give members something to strive for.

See...I told you it was good to be a fly on the wall.

Until next time,


For complete information about the Drug Free Communities here

Friday, June 24, 2011

Picking the Right Leadership

Recently, someone asked me my thoughts about what characteristics a community leader should possess.  My immediate response was humility.

In order for a person to be a really effective leader, they have to be willing to know their faults, limitations, and weaknesses.  Now, I bet that some people think would have gone in the other direction and said things like "strength", "confidence", and "daring".  While I definitely agree that a leader should have all of those things, I would place the ability to be humble above the others.

Understanding the traits that you don't have allows you to identify and work with those that help compliment your weaker points.  It makes its easier to delegate tasks and empower others to take ownership of what you will need them to do.  It places people into positions of shared powers and allows them to speak more openly and honestly about topics and issues they observe and may have. 

Having this type of equal dynamic is necessary when working as part of a community partnership.  Participants must feel that the role they play is vital to the success and failure of the group and its goal.  Every group is only as important as it members; and the members are every bit as important as its leaders.

Until next time,


Monday, June 13, 2011

Youth in Washington Height & Inwood Makes Learning A Top Priority (UNIDOS)

Hi all...

Check out this reprinted article from the NYC Prevention Resource Center....

- CW

Fundraiser for Washington Heights & Inwood Youth Council 
Washington Heights/Inwood Youth Representing Agents of Change

The Washington Heights and Inwood Youth Council (WHIYC) is dreaming big and working hard! WHIYC dreamed of creating a free event educating the community about underage drinking and teen pregnancy. They designed flyers and posters as well as speak about personal struggles as teens, how they overcame them, and why teens should make positive decisions for the well-being of their community.

Indeed, they dreamed, worked, and empowered youth to become the agents of change. Now, WHIYCWashington Hgts - Inwood Youth Council Logo aspires to attend the July 2011 National Youth Leadership Initiative (NYLI) conference in Orange County, California. This conference is sponsored by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA).  The NYLI is a series of intensive workshops that enhances their abilities to tackle problems in the community. WHIYC needs to raise $13,000 (that's $1300 per member) in order to attend the annual conference.  

The Youth Council has participated in flea markets, written letters to businesses, and soon will coordinate a bake sale at a local Christian academy. The conference helps increase their knowledge on how to identify, address and solve the problems in their community. With these new resources WHIYC will be able to implement what they learned and apply those resources to make evident change. Please help them make the Washington Heights & Inwood community a better and safer place with your donations!
Interested in here
(Write "UNIDOS Fundraiser" in your donation memo/note)

For more information, please contact Othanya Garcia, WHIYC President or Daisy Gil, WHIYC, Vice President at 646-353-4321.  

Attend a Karaoke Night to support the WHIYC

Drug Free Bed Stuy Presents....


Tuesday, June 14, 2011
6:00pm to 7:30

It’s Prom and Senior Class Trip Season! Parents, caregivers, and all those interested in keeping our youth drug-free.
Learn what is going on in the community and in the minds of the youth to protect your children away from harmful drugs

Learn proactive prevention steps that will reduce substance abuse risks for adolescents

Become empowered to influence youth in your life

Workshop presented by Drug Free Bed-Stuy Coalition
and will be held at:
Macon Branch
Brooklyn Public Library
361 Lewis Ave. at Macon St.
Brooklyn, NY 11233

For more information
Christine Fonseca at 212-252-7001

Glimspe of the Future By Looking at the Past

Recently, I had the opportunity to check out a long standing community partnership/coalition in the Bronx as saw firsthand where many of the new group want to end up.  On a sunny and warm afternoon in a quiet and very unassuming building, close to twenty people representing a wide variety of community interests and institutions attended their last coalition meeting before summer break.  Surrounded by shelves filled with materials from several Evidence Based Practices they have implemented in the community, the members of the Throggs Neck Community Action Partnership (TNCAP)  brainstormed ideas on where to conduct a community survey around underage drinking; listened to the local precinct representative report on staff changes that could affect their crackdown on C-summons distributed in the area, and recounted some of the great work that had been accomplished over the winter months such as a Bottle Tagging Campaign during the Holiday season.

As a partnership with more than a decade working together, I was amazed by the genuine enthusiasm shown by its members, many of whom were involved since its formation in 1999.  Despite working independently in local schools, organizations, and civic areas, the members still shared a sense of camaraderie in sharing information and thoughts about how they could make a difference in the community.  As members shared a list of upcoming events, others offered their help and support, saying they would try their best to attend.  It was the air of true friendships and relationships that comes from individuals working towards a common goal.

As I travel across the city and observe new partnerships struggling with the challenges that are natural when trying to figure out the benefits of working with others, it can be a little disheartening to new communities to stay the course as they seek out others to join their cause.  The ability to understand and inspire is a difficult skill and takes time and each person looks for their own reasons to be a part of a partnership.  After all, nobody said this process was easy.  It is a marathon that goes through a lot of hills and valleys and its easy to get turned around on the way.   For the partnerships to have something like TNCAP to model themselves after is a bright spot for everyone.  I applaud TNCAP for everything they have done and the oaths blazed along the way and encourage the new groups to reach out and say hello to the pioneers in the Bronx.

Until next time,


Monday, May 23, 2011

Bed-Stuy Leads the Way!

Your roving Community Watcher is back and this time steps into the community of Bedford Stuyvesant at the Drug Free for Bed-Stuy Prevention Coalition meeting!  The coalition is underway of a leadership transition and has begun to review the roles and responsibilities among current members. As the group decided how they would like to split their duties, they also got down to business to form their next community event.  That event is the Parent Workshop, which will take place at Brooklyn’s Macon Avenue Public Library on Tuesday, June 14th, start time 5:30 PM until 7:30 PM. The workshop focus is to invite parents from the neighborhood to discuss ways as to what they can do when their children are out of school during the summer months. The topics for the workshop varied from Cracking the Secret Code (Understanding Slang Words for Drugs & Violence) to the Pressure on Being a Teen in Bed-Stuy. The group hasn’t determined a guest speaker as of yet but has enlisted a coalition member to bring her experience and expertise to the table.

And if you would like more information about June 14th Parent Workshop, please contact Community Development Specialist, Christine Fonseca at 212-252-7001 or

And for more information on their next coalition meeting….

Date: Tues, May 24, 2011
Time: 6:30pm - 8:00pm
Place: Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza,
1368 Fulton Street, 6th floor conference room
Travel Directions: Click Google Maps

RSVP: Email Deirdre Williams at

More to come from this Do and Thrive neighborhood.  Now onto the next community!


Time to Figure Out Who They Are

Fresh off the heels of their very successful “Blame it on the Alcohol” youth summit, the Central Harlem Coalition (CHC) finds itself in territory familiar to many coalitions, especially those who are in the beginning stages of the coalition building process. Under their new name and Identity the Central Harlem Coalition is now in a position to build a community-changing, network-building, coalition machine. However, they must figure out the answers to some very important questions. They need to answer some of the identity defining questions that at times can present early obstacles for coalitions in their position.  They must now begin to clarify their vision and mission, membership and recruitment, and develop the very important Memorandum of Understanding.  The coalition has worked hard to get to this point and they are now challenged with the task of building off of and maintaining the momentum that has been established thus far. Although there are many tasks that lie ahead of them, they seem poised to continue this process and begin building the coalition that so many in the community have been asking for.

Until next time,


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Harlem Youth Take A Stand Against Underage Drinking (CHC)

Over 70+ kids attended
the Youth Summit
Underage Drinking 

"Even though the title says Blame it on the Alcohol, I have to take full responsibility for what I did."  Those were some of the powerful things that ex-NBA player Luther Wright said to a group of 70+ Harlem teens last week.

Luther was the keynote speaker at the Blame It on The Alcohol: Youth Summit Against Underage Drinking" sponsored by the Central Harlem Coalition and help this past Friday, April 29th. 

As a recovering addict that has turned his life around for the better, Luther casted a large impression (he's also 7'2) on a roomful of kids and adults that gathered to learn about the harmful and negative effects of underage drinking and alcohol abuse, sharing his story of personal struggle of substance abuse, addiction, and redemption.  Following his speech, students engaged in a two-way conversation asking about some of the reasons for his addiction, his fallout and exit from professional sports, and how he is able to cope today with his demons.

A speaker from the DUI panel tells about
her choice to drink & drive

Students were also able to attend two workshops, provided by the Department of Transportation.  The first covered the Physical, Emotional, and financial effects of drinking under the influence.  Students were stunned to learn that one DUI can translate into over $50,000 of fees and payments to a variety of insurance companies, legal and court systems. 

The second was a panel discussion featuring DUI offenders that gave students a realistic view of the impact of drinving drunk, the penal and court system, and allowed them to hear first-hand accounts of what the wrong choice involving alcohol can have on their lives.  

A great job by the Central Harlem Coalition to spread the word about the dangers of alcohol and underage drinking.  



Thursday, April 21, 2011

Central Harlem Coalition presents.......

If I Can't Convince You...Then I Won't Enlist Them

After going to a recent coalition meeting, it became apparent that the level of buy-in from the members at the table was low to non-existent.  Every cue--body language, facial expressions, engagement level and talking--conveyed the message that several people would have preferred to be anywhere but at that meeting.  Unfortunately, I couldn't blame them for feeling and acting that way because after meeting for close to a year...they still have not bought into the idea of a coalition.

Good Intentions Doesn't Mean Action

Now, I'm sure that everyone around the table had good intentions when they first went into this venture.  After all, the idea that a community would ban together to share resources and address issues like underage drinking, gang violence, and substance abuse is exciting and under the right conditions would be able to accomplish alot.  This idea is probably what has kept many of them coming back each month...hoping for the ball to get rolling and making that difference.  However, just because they have good intentions doesn't mean that they know what to do to make it work.   That's where creating a plan that has a clear vision about where it sees the community in the future, a mission that focuses on how the vision can be reached & what areas to address, and objectives that provide specific actions, details and timeline, is a key component.  Each item takes time to create but like all good structures, is the foundation that supports everything else.

Getting on the Same Page

How can they get on the right track?  A few ideas include:

Take responsibility - Putting together a coalition is a lot of hard work and takes time.  Being able to have constructive discussions about the downsides as well as the upsides can help everyone reconnect to their reasons for being there and help avoid making some of the same mistakes going forward. 

Get a Consensus - Take another look at the vision and mission statement and make sure that everybody is in agreement and working towards the same goals.  Be sure to know that the issues and problems the group is trying to address really exist, what is being done by others, and where the group can have the greatest impact.    Be sure to revisit these items periodically to help keep everybody on the same page.

Assign Work - Get people involved in the work.   Don't be afraid to ask others to do some of the heavy lifting.  Everything from writing agendas and minutes, sending emails, making calls, finding data, creating brochures and flyers is fair game.   The more people are engaged and active, the more they will feel a part of the work and accomplishing the mission.

In the end, it will be the hard work, desire, and buy-in of the members that is going to drive the work of the group.  They will need to be 100% behind and a part of the group in order to maximize all opportunities from public relations, recruitment, donations, outreach and advocacy.  So...if you can't convince them, you won't enlist others.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Presenting the Central Harlem Coalition (CHC)

Hi folks....Last week, the members of the Drug Free Central Harlem Coalition met to continue planning their upcoming Youth Summit on Underage Drinking.  Plans for the event are coming along nicely with everyone transitioning nicely into their leadership roles and finalizing aspects of the Friday, April 29th event.  A few updates:

  • A title was chosen...."Blame it on the Alcohol: Youth Summit Against Underage Drinking"
  • The event will held at Our Children's Foundation (527 West 125th Street)
  • The Dept. of Transportation Safety Education Unit will provide two workshops, the first is on the physical, mental, and emotional effects of underage alcohol use & the second will be a panel discussion involving DUI offenders speaking about their decision to drink and drive and the consequences of their actions.  The group is hoping to get participants that are between 16-25 years old to have the message resonate with the kids in attendance.
  • Flyer will be ready for distribution in about a weeks time

Next week, the group will focus on reaching out to local organizations to recruit the kids......stay tuned!

Goodbye "Drug Free"

Once the event planning concluded for the evening, talk turned to the coalition structure with much of the discussion centering on branding (especially since the flyers needed to go out).  Members debated the name of the coalition and came to the consensus that the use of the words "Drug Free" were perhaps a little limiting and could potentially turn away some community stakeholders.  They unanimously voted to shorten the name to the "Central Harlem Coalition".   Additionally, they may add a tagline to help describe the focus of the group.

From moved to officially selecting two co-chairs for the group with representatives from both Mt. Sinai Adolescent Health Center & Our Children's Foundation being frontrunners.   While I'm pretty sure this will end up being formalized....I don't want to announce it prematurely...Stay Tuned!

Finally, the group voted to establish a P.O. Box and Coalition email address to help with correspondence and donations.   They can be reached at

They will also be working on revising the mission statement to better reflect the work and purpose of the group, creating some membership guidelines, and finalizing their MOU's.

It's been a lot of progress in a short time....not bad for a group that was unsure if they would continue three weeks ago....BRAVO!

Until next week.....CW

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Little Organization Goes a Long Way (LESPC)

Good planning at the start...goes a long way!
An impromptu meeting was held on the Lower East Side earler this week to talk about their proposed "Youth Leadership Night".  Apparently, they hit a few snags while putting together a donation letter and flyer.  With the coalition still in formation, the members are still working on completing their MOU's.  The "Memorandum's of Understanding" are the formal agreements that allow the group to list its members & it turns out a few of them haven't been turned it.  Now...the letter had to be changed so that everyone was properly acknowledged.  I guess they didn't want anyone to get in trouble for misrepresentation.

While this wasn't a life changing event, it seems to have gotten everyone thinking about the overall timeline with a few people now saying they want to push the event back a month to July.  The idea is to give more time for planning and promotion of the event.  Not a bad idea at all.  With all the work and time they want to put in....the Night should be given every chance to be a smash hit.  Cheers!

BTW....Next LESPC Meeting Date

Date: Thursday, April 14th, 2011
Time: 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Place: Immigrant Social Services, 137 Henry Street
Travel Directions: Click for GoogleMaps

RSVP: Contact Carlos at 212-571-1840

Friday, April 1, 2011

Gangs OR No Gangs? (LESPC)

Well...well...well...The Lower East Side Prevention Coalition (LESPC) has started planning a community outreach event for June 2011.  Details are still a little sketchy about the format but a few meetings has occurred to begin fleshing out the idea.  One of the formats called for a Gang Awareness Night that brought together gang affiliated & non-affiliated youth together to hear about the dangers and negative outcomes of joining a gang.   After a back and forth conversation that weighed the pros and cons of having the two populations in the same room, it was decided that the approach for each group would be different and may send a mixed message.   In the end, I find myself on the fence and think that under the right circumstances, it might work...just don't ask me what those circumstances would be...hmmm...any ideas?

Summer Youth Looking for Jobs

With news that the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) is facing a significant bunch of layoffs for the upcoming season (again!), the LESPC has launched a community campaign to identify paid and unpaid internships for local youth.  They have reached out to community organizations, local businesses, and corporation partners to try and find suitable placements for the kids.   The idea is that if kids end up on the streets, then they will definitely engage in drinking and drug use.   Not a bad idea and most definitely pro-active on the part of the coalition.   Still, it seems that SYEP funding is always restored at the last minute but it will be interesting to see what resources are identified for the kids.  Maybe, they will have a few options available when its all said and done....Stay tuned!

Not Joking in Central Harlem (DFCH)

Happy April Fool's Day!  It might be a time for jokes today but the folks in the new and improved Central Harlem coalition have put their collective foot down and have been busy making plans for a Youth Summit on Underage Drinking on April 29th.
Since finding out at last week's general meeting that they were going to have to step up their efforts to organize and outreach for this event...they have risen to the challenge.  Reps from several Harlem organizations including Our Children's Foundation, Mt. Sinai Adolescent Health Center, and Civic Association Seving Harlem have been meeting weekly to plan out the festivities for the event.   So far, they have secured former NBA star, Luther Wright to be keynote speaker.  Luther has gone from rags-to-riches-to-rags as a result of his drinking problems and has quite a story to tell young people.     They have also received a generous donation from the Central Harlem Sobering Up Station to provide the refreshments for the event.  Plans are still being finalized for the venue, workshops, and special prizes and give-a-ways but it looks like things are coming together...Stay tuned!

Logos, Name, and Message
What should the Central Harlem logo be?
On another note, last night's meeting had an interesting conversation about the direction the group want to go into following the event.  Everything from the groups image, logo and message were discussed.  There was even talk of possibly changing the name in the future.   While nothing was decided last night, the group is looking to make some major decisions prior to the Youth Summit and plans to devote some time each week leading up to the day of the event to make some should be a very interesting conversation.

New Time to Meet, Same Location (for now!)

It occurred to everyone that the meetings always seemed to start a little late with several people running in the door around 6:30-ish. better accomodate everyone's schedule, the official start time for the meeting was changed to 6:30pm.   So here it is...

Next Meeting

Thursday, April 7th, 2011
6:30pm - 8:00pm
Our Children's Foundation
527 West 125th Street New York, NY 10027-3402

Take the 1 train to 125th Street station.  Walk east 1-1/2 blocks.  Between Old Broadway & Amsterdam Avenue (across from C-Town)

Take A,B,C,D train to 125th Street.  Walk west 2-1/2 blocks.  Between Old Broadway & Amsterdam Avenue (across from C-Town)

For more the NYC Prevention Resource Center at (917) 286-1540