Reach out and help communities

As the mother of an addict son now in prison, I stood alone in my cul-de-sac neighborhood trying to make sense of it all. I felt the urge to scream: “Somebody please help me.” When no one answered, I began to solve the problems myself. This is my journey. This is what I have learned.

The challenges suburban families face are complex and could potentially devastate lives and derail futures. Kids are becoming addicts, being arrested, going to prison and dying from suicide and overdoses.

Recently, Forsyth County held a drug summit with a panel that included former Braves pitcher John Smoltz, judges and a county commissioner among others but, most importantly, the mother of a child who committed suicide because of his heroin addiction and looming prison time. Here’s a haunting statistic: 15 Forsyth County kids have died from overdoses this year. I looked around the room of nearly 500 people and recognized the faces of scared parents. I have begun to realize this story needs to be told, and the disconnect must stop. I have also begun to realize the African-American community and so-called inner cities have dealt with similar issues for decades. Until the problem hits home, people will paylittle attention. Children are being destroyed in every corner of metro Atlanta. .

Thomas Cousins of Purpose Built Communities wrote an article called, “America’s Greatest Untapped Resource.” In it, he explains that the total annual revenue of U.S. charitable organizations exceeds $1.5 trillion. He says, “We should ask ourselves: Are we achieving a trillion dollars worth of results?” The answer is no. It’s not that small groups aren’t making a difference; it’s that we don’t have a handle on how to utilize these resources to transform struggling communities. And right now, when it comes to our children - rich, poor, black or white - all communities struggle to maintain.

The No. 1 priority is education — not just our children, but also parents, business and community leaders, churches, local celebrities and athletes about what is happening in our towns. Each community has its own set of problems. Until we address what they are and have town hall forums where people can openly discuss their needs, we cannot possibly solve them.

I am certain that we are finally ready to stop hiding behind shame, ignorance and racial discomfort to face this head-on. As a mother who’s been through it, I can tell you it’s going to be a bumpy but necessary ride. Hang on for dear life because that’s exactly what is at stake.

I currently serve on Fulton County Commissioner John Eaves’ Smart Justice Advisory Council, which helps to identify the needs of our communities. I challenge all who read this to reach out to me and find out where you can help at kateboccia@yahoo.com.

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