CLINTON—At the Ritz Theatre in Clinton on Wednesday night, the Anderson County Underage Drinking Task Force held a well-attended Town Hall meeting to discuss underage drinking. A panel of experts was assembled to discuss the issue and answer questions raised by members of the audience.
Panelists included Russell Barker, director of the Seventh Judicial Crime Task Force; Kim Guinn, director of Project AWARE; Gary Terry, assistant principal, athletic director, and mentor at Anderson County High School; and Jack and Mary Lou Winkler, parents in partnership with MADD.
“Underage drinking is not a minor problem; it’s a major one,” Barker said. “Almost every case I’ve ever investigated as a police officer has had alcohol or drugs involved.”
Stephanie Strutner, executive director of Allies for Substance Abuse Prevention and emcee of the event, noted that “while collaborations among local law enforcement agencies, local government, and businesses have had a tremendous impact on reducing the prevalence of underage drinking in our community, we still have work to do.”
Guinn stressed that “it is important the safety of our children remain our number one priority,” and she urged parents to “build resilience now for your children so drug and alcohol use do not become their coping strategy.” Guinn went on to say that half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14, and we must “recognize the need for early intervention.”
Terry identified some unique ways students in the county have banded together to encourage their peers to make healthy choices. Jack and Mary Lou Winkler were on hand to identify, first-hand, the tragic consequences families are susceptible to when people make poor choices with alcohol.
Rebecca Winkler, the youngest of their four children, was 16 years old when she was killed by a head-on collision caused by a drunk driver. Rebecca’s father, Jack, said, “we’ve had too many victims.” Mary Lou Winkler, Rebecca’s mother, urged the adolescents in the audience to make good decisions saying, “we have 1,140 minutes each day to make a choice that we can’t take away.”
For more information on underage drinking or for conversation starters on how to have a conversation with your family, visit www.ASAPofAnderson.org.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
This press release was submitted by ASAP of Anderson County.