Kutztown Strong, a local 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing youth substance misuse, held its Annual Key Leader Gathering on Oct. 21 at Kutztown University.
This annual event showcased the progress Kutztown Strong has made in the community in its goal to decrease risk factors associated with youth substance misuse. The event included a presentation by Raphael M. Barishansky, Deputy Secretary of Health Preparedness and Community Protection with the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Barishansky has been quoted as saying… “The roots of the opioid crisis are complex.” Calling it a “perfect storm,” he said “it is a combination of over prescribing pain killers in the 1990s, and availability of a pain killers and cheap heroin. It's a long-term problem that is going to require long-term solutions.”
Kutztown Strong resulted from a 2014 call to action set forth by then Kutztown Area School District Superintendent Kathy Metrick. This call to action was met with more than just a short-term fix for the substance misuse issue that Metrick was fighting against. Six years later, Kutztown Strong continues to evolve to fit the changing needs of the community.
Host and President Emeritus, Andy Brett, explained, “With programs stretching from pre-K through college, Kutztown Strong has become a symbol of safety and responsibility for students across all grade levels.”
“Though safety and responsibility are important principles of Kutztown Strong’s mission, their involvement with students also relies on another key aspect—fun! Kutztown Strong programs give kids from elementary through college-age the opportunity to attend events that promote smart and healthy after-school activities—just to have a good time with their peers while avoiding dangerous activities—and filling a noticeable void with invaluable positive interaction. Students have a place to go to spend time with their peers and interact with positive role models.”
Brett also shared, “Despite achievements like these, there is still so much work to be done. And the work is never easy.”
The efforts being put forth by Kutztown Strong have not gone unnoticed. Most recently the organization was invited to present at the 2019 Governor’s Opioid Command Center Summit, held in State College. Barishansky is also scheduled to speak at this summit.
The escalating national opioid crisis is why Kutztown Strong works so diligently to help strengthen the resolve of the next generation in our local community. As a nonprofit organization, Kutztown Strong relies on grants and donations to operate.
In a previous meeting, Merry Schlegel, President of the Kutztown Strong Board of Directors, announced the appointment of seven new members to the Kutztown Strong Board of Directors: Susan Collier, vice president, retired teacher; Sherry Christman, secretary, owner, Elite Business Systems LLC; Kathy Metrick, former Kutztown superintendent, founder and president emeritus; Christian Temchatin, current Kutztown superintendent; Seth Noggle, Director of Youth and Family Ministries, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Kutztown; Lisa Hunter, owner of The Early Learning Community; and Heather Steuer, parent and local concerned citizen.
Schlegel also shared, that similar to many other nonprofit organizations, funding and grants are more difficult to obtain after surpassing the six-year mark. That said, she emphasized the importance of relationship building, awareness, and continued program implementation. Each of these key responsibilities is managed by Community Coordinator Sheryl McKlveen. Her efforts have been the driving force behind the organization’s success.
To assist the board in its fundraising and sustainability efforts in 2020, Rick Yanchuleff, a local marketing and fundraising professional, has joined Kutztown Strong as Director of Development.
“We are excited to welcome these concerned citizens to our staff and Board as we continue to find ways to educate area youth about substance misuse and its potential dangers,” said Schlegel.