By SHERIDAN CYR
For 10 years, the Southington STEPS Coalition (Southington’s Town-wide Effort to Promote Success) has been a leader in substance abuse prevention for youth through education, and they will be celebrating their first decade of success with a gala event on Friday, Sept. 14, from 6:30 to 11:30 p.m., at the Aqua Turf Club.
Members of the community are invited to join the STEPS Coalition in their celebration, which will honor John Myers, a founding members of the Southington STEPS who continues to be active in the coalition.
“We need to acknowledge and thank John Myers for his commitment and dedication to our coalition,” said STEPS advisory board president Chris Palmieri in a press release. “Under his leadership, as a founding member and our first board president, we were able to become a relevant and essential part of our community.”
Myers, who is retiring from his position after 30 years as the executive director of the Southington YMCA at the end of the year, said he was honored by the recognition for his role in STEPS.
“My involvement with STEPS has certainly been one of the highlights of my career at the YMCA and work in the Southington community,” said Myers. “Southington once again walks the walk, and STEPS is a wonderful shining example of how it takes a village to raise a child.”
The coalition began with a series of youth suicides in the town that shocked the town. Residents became aware of the overwhelming pressures faced by today’s youth and felt compelled to do something. It sparked this community movement.
“When a youth within the community came forward seeking advice and help, a group of community stakeholders came together to form Southington STEPS,” gala chairperson William Palmieri said in a press release. “This coalition reached out to all community sectors and ultimately developed a very diverse and focused coalition.”
Southington STEPS began its prevention efforts by focusing on the 40 Building Blocks of Healthy Development, known as “developmental assets.” STEPS also identified immediate issues within the community: tobacco, cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs.
“The Southington STEPS Coalition has become a state leader in prevention over the past ten years,” said STEPS staff member Megan Albanese. “My co-worker, Kelly Leppard, has been the driving force and heart behind it all. She has brought people from all different sectors of the community together for an essential cause: Making substance abuse prevention a priority her in Southington. Together, the community has been able to wrap our youth in a safety net to prevent them from engaging in risk-taking behaviors.”
Advisory board president Palmieri said, as a member involved since the beginning of the coalition, he has seen positive changes first-hand.
“I am incredibly proud of the significant changes STEPS has made in Southington to reduce all risky behaviors, especially related to substance abuse,” he said in a press release. “Although there is still work to be done, I am confident that the impact the coalition has made is long-lasting.”
The gala is cocktail attire and is open to adults 21 and over. Tickets can be purchased at www.south-ingtonsteps.org or the Southington STEPS office in the John Weichsel Municipal Center at 196 N. Main St. Tickets are $65 per person and includes cocktails, hors d’oevres, food stations and dancing.
For more information, contact Albanese at (860) 276-6272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.