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ASAP hosted their 5th annual Community Appreciation Banquet on March 1st. We celebrated community leaders who have worked diligently over the past year to raise awareness for substance misuse prevention. In addition, we celebrated the culmination of a year of coalition work and the volunteers who are the boots on the ground in Anderson County when it comes to prevention.

Our volunteers have accomplished a tremendous amount of work toward saving lives from the consequences of substance misuse over the past year. With over 2,000 collective volunteer hours, double what was generated in 2017, our volunteers engaged in policy advocacy, changed consequences for substance misuse, provided information, increased skills among local parents and professionals, reduced barriers by organizing medication disposal opportunities, and provided support to adolescents and seniors. You, our volunteers, continue to amaze me every day with your dedication.

Each year, influential community members have a powerful impact on prevention initiatives in Anderson County. By supporting coalition efforts, engaging in community-wide activities, and advocating for needed services, regular citizens become powerful partners in prevention. At the banquet this year, we recognized the Prevention Power Partner for 2018. This award is given to a community member who staunchly supports prevention, often behind the scenes. In previous years, this award has been given to an individual. This year, we saw fit for the award to go to a collective group of people. This group has been one of our most constant allies. They have granted us access to youth leaders in our community, have provided our office space since 2012, and work collaboratively to ensure that every student has the support they need, both in and out of the classroom, every day. We were thrilled to extend this year’s Prevention Power Partner award to Dr. Tim Parrott, Greg Deal, and the Anderson County School Board.

Speaking of youth, over the years, ASAP Youth Ambassadors have increasingly taken on a significant role in prevention efforts in our community. This year, we chose to specifically recognize our youth for their contributions. Our Youth Ambassadors have done amazing things; honestly, they have accomplished things our adult volunteers have tried to do but were unsuccessful. They are a true testament to why we engage in the important work we do. One Ambassador in particular has shown exemplary leadership over the past four years. She is so impassioned and active in our community that she wasn’t able to attend the banquet due to working on a project for another service club she’s involved in, so we awarded her via FaceTime instead! We were so proud to recognize Manshi Patel as the ASAP Youth Ambassador of the Year.

In addition to youth, we also recognized 26 of our outstanding adult volunteers who accumulated more than 25 hours, more than 50 hours, and more than 100 hours. We also had the pleasure of giving one of our longtime members the Lifetime Ally Award. The Lifetime Ally Award was presented to Wendy Williams on behalf of her continued commitment to ASAP of Anderson and substance use prevention. Despite moving away from Anderson County to be closer to her daughter, Wendy has continued to stay up-to-date on coalition progress and has continued her regular financial donations to support prevention in our community. She has been a long-time friend and supporter of ASAP and the coalition wanted to show our sincere appreciation to her for her continued support. 

As you can see, the work we do is all about community impact. Sometimes, you have a volunteer so special, who overachieves at such a rate, it is hard to find a way to properly recognize them. One of our volunteers does just that. A founding member of ASAP, this volunteer, even through illness, has rarely missed a coalition event. In fact, I could count on one hand the number of coalition events in 10 years he has not attended. For this reason, and to recognize and celebrate the more than 500 hours he has volunteered to prevent and reduce youth substance use in Anderson County, we were so excited to recognize John Kelsey, the recipient of the inaugural John Kelsey IMPACT Award.

Finally, I want to congratulate our 2019 Ally of the Year Rick Meredith with the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce. All of the candidates were instrumental in helping ASAP have a record-breaking year to help prevent substance misuse in Anderson County. Thank you to all of our candidates who participated this year. In addition to Rick Meredith, Lisa Downard (Oak Ridge Schools Preschool (2nd Runner-Up); Shelby Haun, Anderson County Schools Preschool; Tribby Kelly, Oak Ridge Schools Preschool (1st Runner-Up); Chief Robin Smith, Oak Ridge Police Department; and Sam Turner; Food City in Clinton all competed for the title.

As we celebrate all the wonderful accomplishments ASAP has achieved over the past 12 months, our work is far from over. I’d like to leave you with the wise words of the patron saint of East Tennessee, Dolly Parton, who said “You’ll never do a whole lot unless you’re brave enough to try.” Friends, let’s go be brave and try!

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