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Rally aims to increase public awareness of drug problem

Members of the Atmore Lions Club meet with ECHS administrators and Ruth Harrell of the Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County, to discuss the upcoming “Drugs Erase Dreams” rally.

Members of the Atmore Lions Club meet with ECHS administrators and Ruth Harrell of the Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County, to discuss the upcoming “Drugs Erase Dreams” rally.

The Atmore Lions Club is co-sponsoring a “Drugs Erase Dreams” rally later this month, in hopes of increasing the public’s awareness about local drug-related problems and issues.

This free rally will be Thursday, Oct. 23, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Escambia County High School. There will be free pizza and drinks provided after the forum, thanks to the generosity of Pizza Hut, Pepsi and other local sponsors.

Some of the scheduled speakers include Judge Bradley Byrne, Judge Dave Jordan, staff with the Escambia County Drug Task Force, and Denise Carlee, who is the court reporter for the juvenile court in Escambia County.

Ruth Harrell, chairperson of the Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County, said the rally is designed to let the public know that drugs aren’t just a problem in big cities.

“A lot of people are awareness that drugs are a problem in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, but they might not be aware that we have a drug problem here in Escambia County as well,” she said. “We’ll be showing a presentation that shows the drugs that are out on our streets right now, and the side effects that users get from these drugs. I think it will be a real attention grabber for some of those who aren’t aware of this problem.”

Harrell said that the rally is not designed to scare the public, but just to alert them to the severity of drugs and what they can do to destroy lives.

“I’m hoping and praying that we have a huge crowd, because this is information that people really need to know,” she said.

The Coalition first put on a “Drugs Erase Dreams” rally at Flomaton High School on March 19, 2013. It was a strong success, drawing more than 500 attendees, and the Coalition decided to bring the program countywide. Additional rallies are planned for Escambia Academy, Flomaton High School, T.R. Miller High School and W.S. Neal High School in March.

Harrell said that the Atmore Lions Club has been the “sparkplug” for helping to organize the local event. She also thanked ECHS principal Dennis Fuqua and other school administrators for their cooperation in hosting the rally.

“There have been many other individuals and businesses who are sponsoring and assisting,” she said. “We hope that it’s a very successful event and that people learn a lot from it.”