By Jodi Marze, Lifestyles Editor
The Picayune Item
For the second year, a cross-section of community leaders with the shared vision of eliminating county drug abuse with community activist, Dawn Bechtel and Highland Hospital Administrator Mark Stockstill, BSN, have come together as Pearl River County United Coalition (PRCU) and will once again hold the Pearl River County United March Against Drugs, which will begin at 10 a.m. on October 27th in the Stage parking lot and end in a big rally at the Jack Read Park on Goodyear Blvd.
Bechtel says, “We are so excited because this year’s rally will feature special guest speaker, Deuce McCallister. We are expecting more people than last year. These dealers are going to get the message.” It is estimated that last year, a thousand Pearl River County community members participated in the Pearl River County United Coalition’s March Against Drugs.
PRC Sheriff David Allison, Picayune Police Bryan Dawsey and Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown marched along with officials from the three county high schools with their students to make a stand. Civic organizations joined church leaders and congregation members to let county dealers know that the community was not going to take it anymore.
Local students wearing their school colors spent their Saturday side by side with students from other high schools (rivals on the football field) marching, cheering and applauding together in a show of support during the rally held at the end of the march.
Stockstill says, “The purpose of the anti-drug march is to make a powerful community statement that says we are tired of drugs destroying our community and we are not going to roll over and take it any longer. On Saturday the 27th, at 10 a.m., we will march together: Families, local high schools, church congregations, work colleagues and even organizations from other communities to show our solidarity and dedication to eradicate this menace to our community.” PRCU’s philosophy is prevention before intervention. They base this on the academic work that Stockstill did throughout his college career, the latest of which is a paper entitled “An Elementary Solution to Preventing Substance Abuse,” May 25, 2011.
He says, “Substance abuse is a serious and growing problem in Pearl River County, Miss. as well as America. Numerous individuals, families and communities have suffered the heartbreaking consequences of this addiction. We often look to law enforcement, hospitals and churches to solve this problem, but this is a community problem and therefore a community responsibility. If we can reach these kids prior to junior high, beginning with pre-school ages and we can introduce coping mechanisms other than turning to drugs, we have a shot at keeping them drug free.”
In a letter to the community the coalition says:
“Until our community takes a unified stand against drugs and drug abuse, lives will continue to be shattered. ... We are a group of concerned citizens that with our Lord’s direction have decided to take that stand. We believe that we can make a difference ... We feel the best way to kick off this endeavor is to engage a march against drugs in much the same way the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. marched on Selma to bring about profound change.”
All local high schools will be joining the march again this year. As was the case last year, PRC school district will provide bus transportation back to the parking lot, after the rally.