Photo by Caleb Motsinger
As she volunteers her time for the Alton Parks and Recreation Department, Addison Cartwright, a May graduate of Alton High School, pulls weeds around the fountain at Gordon Moore Park’s Nan Elliot Memorial Rose Garden. Leaders of the Drug Free Alton Coalition say volunteer work, sports and faith-based events are helpful in deterring drug problems.
Their reason is simple, but their mission is complex.
The Drug Free Alton Coalition strives to prevent underage drinking and substance abuse, especially among youth. Melanie Nagel, a project coordinator with the coalition, says while the group’s charge may be straightforward, they have a multi-faceted approach to dealing with and overcoming the effects of drug abuse on the community as a whole.
“Drug abuse is a complicated issue that not only affects the individual, but everyone else around them,” Nagel said. “We have a lot of different ways we work with local police departments, school districts, churches, students and volunteers to help deter drug-related problems, and we’re starting to discuss future plans for how we are going to deal with them.”
At the coalition’s recent monthly meeting at Castelli’s Moonlight restaurant, the group’s leaders outlined strategies they plan to coordinate in Greater Alton.
Drug Free Alton plans to sponsor a follow-up event this fall for Breakfast Blessings, a faith-based summit held June 11 at Calvary Baptist Church in Alton.
“Calvary Cares will be a community-wide effort designed to show the people of Alton that we care,” the Rev. Marc Lane said of the event planned this fall. “Our church is seeking to champion the coalition’s cause.”
Lane is the faith-based liaison for the coalition, as well as the chaplain for the Alton Police Department and a member of Calvary’s pastoral staff.
Lane added that the faith-based initiative of Drug Free Alton is intended to unite churches to reach families and the children of the area’s school districts.
“Christians should be involved in the needs of the entire city,” he said. “If we don’t reach our young people with the truth, we will no longer have a city, only buildings with visitors passing through.”
Lane and Nagel, along with fellow project coordinator Emily Mangi and coalition chairman Greg Gelzinnis, look to plan more outreaches thorough churches, with hopes to engage in more drug prevention work in the future.
At the coalition’s monthly meeting June 18, the group examined the coalition’s sustainability, looking at ways of retaining and recruiting new members as they continue to sponsor new events and work with existing ones.
“The coalition doesn’t sponsor a lot of events,” Nagel said. “But we have two signature ones, our Youth Speak Out event in April and our Breakfast Blessings program in June.”
The coalition participates in National Night Out as well as sponsoring its own events.
Made possible by state and federal funding, Drug Free Alton has served Alton, Godfrey, Cottage Hills, and Brighton for nine years.
“The need for a program like this has been in the area for a long time,” Nagel said. “But in recent years people in the community have become more aware of the need and are trying to help with the role they can play in preventing drug use and underage drinking.”
For information on events sponsored by the Drug Free Alton Coalition and Calvary Baptist Church, visit these websites: