Spreading word about drug abuse

On Oct. 17, 1988, members of Beta Sigma Phi met at the home of Doris Steward.

During that meeting of the Seymour sorority, Steward conducted a program about accessories in the home and how they reflect one’s hobbies and what one considers important in life.

Members of the group also took the time to complete a community service project directed by Elsie McCormick. That project involved measuring, cutting and pinning 750 red ribbons for Jackson County Substance Abuse Task Force’s first Red Ribbon Week, which was Oct. 23 to 30 that year.

Three days later, 54 members of Seymour Senior Citizens and one guest came to a meeting armed with scissors to cut and prepare 2,800 red ribbons for the same purpose.

Other groups in the community also would make red ribbons during their meetings. By the time Red Ribbon Week rolled around, more than 10,000 red ribbons had been made and distributed throughout the community. The theme for the week carried the theme “Happy to be Drug-Free in Jackson County.”

The Red Ribbon Week campaign was started nationally in 1985 to raise awareness of the death and destruction caused by drugs. It now serves as a catalyst to mobilize communities to educate youth and encourage participation in drug prevention activities.

A few things have changed since that first Red Ribbon Week, including the name of the Jackson County Substance Abuse Task Force. It’s now known as the Jackson County Drug-Free Council.

The purpose of Red Ribbon Week, however, remains the same today: sharing information, engaging in activities, educating and reducing risk while enhancing protection in the community.

They’re still making red ribbons in Jackson County in preparation for Red Ribbon Week, which begins Monday and ends Oct. 31, but you also can find red ribbons painted on storefronts in downtown Seymour thanks to the skills of 30 Seymour High School students.

You also can see them on banners throughout the county along with this year’s theme, “United Against Drugs.”

There’s also an effort afoot to expand Red Ribbon Week to Red Ribbon Month with more activities aimed at reducing drug abuse.

That effort certainly couldn’t hurt considering many of the same drug abuse issues present when Red Ribbon Week was first organized in 1985 still are with us.

In fact, the opioid epidemic has led to a dramatic increase in overdoses and drug-related deaths in Jackson County and around the state, including that of teenagers and young adults.

The epidemic, which knows no geographic, social, economic or race boundaries, is costly, especially for the loved ones of those who are abusing drugs and even dying because of their addiction.

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What: GET LOUD NOW, an event to culminate Red Ribbon Week

When: 5 to 8 p.m. Oct. 27

Where: Farmers market parking lot on Walnut Street in Seymour

There will be food trucks, live music from Donovan Harris and speakers Kyle McIntosh and Stacy Phillips sharing their stories of drug addiction and recovery.

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Oct. 23 through 31 is National Red Ribbon Week.