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History

Community mobilization and activities around preventing youth substance use had been happening in the greater Bellows Falls area for at least a decade before a coalition was formally organized in its present form. In 2001, a “New Directions” coalition was formed, which put an emphasis on youth empowerment and leadership, such as ropes course initiatives.

The Greater Falls Prevention Coalition (GFPC) began to meet in July 2004 as the local prevention consultant and the regional partnership began hosting meetings, forums, and other discussions to kickoff the planning process for prevention in the community.  This mobilization group was formed with help from Springfield prevention coalition. During this time, key members of the community were brought together to begin an assessment of the population, data, needs, resources, readiness, and commitment to focusing on prevention. The needs were acknowledged but no focused efforts were made.

In 2005, the community received a mini-grant from the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs (ADAP), and focused mostly on parenting programs. Coalition meetings were held quarterly.

A group of concerned community members and agencies got together in 2006 to address underage drinking. With assistance from the Vermont Department of Health Brattleboro Prevention Consultant (Robin Rieske), community mobilization and needs assessment  efforts included community forums, key informant interviews, and surveys.  Greater Falls Prevention Coalition (GFPC) was established on May 9, 2006, with the first bylaws and formalized organizational structure.  

In 2007, the Strategic Prevention Framework/State Incentive Grant (SPF/SIG) became available. The coalition applied for the funding to hire a coordinator whose job was to build capacity and design an implementation plan to address prevention in the community. The primary target for the work was on underage and binge drinking for young people ages 25 and under.

The funding was approved in 2008. The grant was available through the Vermont Department Health, Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs (ADAP), which supported coalition capacity-building and alcohol and marijuana prevention strategies.  One of the original GFPC offices was at the Boys & Girls Club, which was housed at one of the Immanuel Episcopal Church retreat houses (it is now privately owned).

 

In May 2010, there was a debate about a teenage drinking issue that GFPC was a part of that led to a discussion about the purpose of the coalition, language that was used in programming, and campaigns that the community did not agree with.  In the same year, a three-year Holt Fund grant for Parent Outreach and programming was received, with Deb Witkus the primary staff person funded under this grant. Kari Fletcher was the Coalition Coordinator and Chad Simmons was the Communications Coordinator.

GFPC applied for and received the Drug-Free Community Support Program grant in 2011, Years 1-5.  During this time, our fiscal agent was changed from the Springfield Area Parent Child Center (SAPCC) to Health Care & Rehabilitation Services of Southeastern Vermont, Inc (HCRS). This caused some delicate conversations with DFC project officers, as the change in fiscal agent meant that the original grant needed to be relinquished by SAPCC and a new federal award needed to be granted to HCRS, which is no small task for the federal government.

 

2012 saw the hiring a new Coalition Director with the position open for nearly a year. Frannie Waldron was hired as the Director. Chad Simmons served as Interim Director during this time. Terri Kneipp was hired as a part-time Tobacco Coordinator, under a Tobacco Community Prevention Grant.

By early 2013, staff began seeking feedback from coalition members, Advisory Board members, and community partners on how GFPC was seen and how they wanted to be seen. This included changes to the mission and vision statements as well as the name of the organization to Greater Falls Connections and the creation of the slogan, "Prevention through inspiration!". In June, the coalition approved the changes and they were officially launched in September during a community-wide event. Laura Schairbaum hired as Tobacco Coordinator, and the coalition combined community grants and was part of the Brattleboro Partnership for Success first year.

In 2014, the coalition lost funding from the Vermont Department of Health. Laura Schairbaum was named the new Director and Scott Sharland was hired as Tobacco Coordinator. The coalition participated in the Governors Opioid Forum and local events and it was the first year of Springfield RPP participation.

The coalition received a three-year Holt Grant for community organizing around youth substance use prevention in 2015. 

In 2016, GFC held “The Importance of Hope” Community Forum and follow-up  events. The coalition also supported the establishment of Friends for Change Youth Club after the closure of the Bellows Falls Unit of the Brattleboro Boys & Girls Club, and completed the community forums and needs assessment for the Drug-Free Communities Support Program Year 6-10 Application, which was received.

In 2018, the coalition worked with COSU  and received a one-year Holt Grant for Capacity Building related to youth supports and training providers; organized on-site Youth Now training for area providers.

During 2019, Molly Nash was hired.

The world came to a grinding halt during 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. GFC helped create Rockingham Helping Hands to help meet the needs of the community. There were staff limitations as this point with Laura and Deb the only two on staff.

In 2021, GFC received the COSU Family Engagement grant.

2022 saw a shift in focus for Deb Witkus as she moved to work on Intentional Peer Support (IPS) with Friends For Change and the IPS International group. Grants to support this work came from CARA, Holt Youth Mental Health grant,  Vermont Department of Health Equity grant, and a grant from the Vermont Community's Foundation. The DFC grant was extended for a year. Neil Allen was hired as the Communications Specialist. Other prevention work was minimized during the fall and into winter.

In early 2023, Neil Allen was appointed the Director. The Advisory Board and staff reviewed the mission and vision statements and the bylaws for the Advisory Board. The changes to the statements was to include the term equity.  The bylaw changes were primarily to address work identified for the board that was not what they should be doing, the introduction of a committee to support the staff, the establishment of the hiring committee, and the requirement for the board to have at least two youth on the board. The changes were passed at the annual meeting in early July. In April, Ginger Driscoll was hired as the Prevention Specialist. In June, Deb Witkus transferred to HCRS to continue the IPS work with Friends For Change in collaboration with IPS International and HCRS.

NEWS

Transgender Support Groups

Every third Thursday the Greater Rockingham LGBTQIA+ Group offers free peer support groups for transgender folks. Teens, 13-17, meet from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., and adults, 18+, meet from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. The meetings are held at Parks Place. Snacks will be provided. The groups will be led by a transgender staff member.

Sign up today for Computer Skills Training for the Workplace

Learn the basics of using a computer with this FREE five-week program. The class will be held at the Windsor Resource Center from June 11 to July 9, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Attend all five classes to qualify for a free laptop. To sign up, call 802-885-8300.

GFC Bookstore

You can now purchase in bulk materials that have been created by GFC staff at cost plus shipping and tax. This includes books, journals, bookmarks, and stickers.  Click here!​

March 2024 Newsletter

Want to see what we're up to? Download our newsletter for updates, achievements, and upcoming events! Click here to read.

LGBTQIA+ Hangout

Join us for a FREE hangout for LGBTQIA+ members, ages 18 and old. Stop by Parks Place from 2-4pm on the second Saturday of each month for writing, crafting, reading, gaming, or just hanging out. 

Online Narcan training
If you've picked up a package of Narcan or Naloxone and don't know how to use it, check out this video with instructions from the Vermont Department of Health.

Windham County calendar

Discover fun area activities for families.

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