Community coalition awarded major grant

Federal grant will be used for youth substance abuse prevention

After hundreds of hours and an eight-month long process, a local community coalition is seeing the fruits of its labor.

UNITE! Washougal Community Coalition has been awarded a federal $625,000 Drug-Free Communities grant to help prevent substance use among youth.

“I am ecstatic,” said Margaret McCarthy, coalition coordinator. “It makes me so proud of the community and people who have stepped up to help make this the best place it can be for youth.”

UNITE! consists of volunteers from local businesses, the public library, school district, law enforcement, faith-based organizations and city government, as well as parents, youth and community members.

Washougal’s grant is one of 698 across the country, totaling $85.9 million. Grants awarded through the DFC are intended to support established community-based youth substance use prevention coalitions capable of affecting community level change.

“Our goal is to make Washougal a safe and healthy place for our youth,” said Heather Jordan, member of the Washougal grant writing committee. “Prevention is a powerful tool to counteract youth substance abuse in our community, and we will use this funding to help youth in Washougal make healthy choices.”

The Washougal School District will administer the grant.

“A primary goal of the grant is to reduce substance use among youth,” said Mike Stromme, district superintendent. “Another important goal is to support collaboration among coalitions, and other public and private agencies working on the issues surrounding substance use among youth,” he added.

He added that it is extremely rare for an organization to receive DFC grant funding on its first request.

“This was a Herculean effort, with many people in our community stepping up to help,” he said.

The group studied the work of other local DFC grant winners from Stevenson, La Center and Battle Ground, and learned from their successful efforts.

“This is about all of our volunteers who have worked to make Washougal a better place for youth,” McCarthy said.

The money will be used to continue existing programs, such as parenting classes and youth activities, as well as for future endeavors.