To help fight the problems of alcohol and drug abuse, as well as gangs, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Youth Services hosts periodic gatherings for Community members of all ages. The most recent one took place at the Victory Acres II clubhouse on February 26. Community members from Victory Acres (I, II, IV and V), the Canal Side homes and Dobson Heights were invited to the event, which was a family barbecue.
The aroma of grilling hot dogs and hamburgers filled the air as children ran around and played on the playground, played basketball or sat and waited for the presentation to start.
According to Rudy Buchanan, a social worker with Youth Services, “Sober gatherings geared toward anti-drug, alcohol and gang activity is what we are here for.”
During the presentation, invited guests and other participants on hand expressed the need to stay off drugs and stay out of prison. One man, Earl Antone, came all the way from Gila River to share his struggle with alcohol with the audience.
Antone said that he took his first drink was when he was 13-years-sold. He said he would drink with his friends and he was just trying to find out who he was.
He became very self-destructive in high school. He said two counselors tried to help him find himself, and that was when he discovered the spiritual aspects of his culture that; he enjoyed taking part in. He was even selected to participate in an important cultural ceremony. Unfortunately, alcohol kept re-entering his life, ruining any progress he made. It eventually cost him his wife and three children.
Antone said, “That is when I got to the point where I said, ‘I don’t care.’”
He thought alcohol would help him forget his problems, but it ended up creating even more problems for him. He got into a serious car accident that nearly killed him. He has required multiple surgeries and is still dealing with the physical pain. He said, “Due to drinking I almost killed myself, so I finally told myself ‘This is enough.’” He realized that all the friends he used to drink with were dead. They had drunk themselves to death, either from cirrhosis of the liver, drunk driving or fighting.
Today Antone has been sober for over a year. His message seemed to get through to many of the youth at the gathering.
Colten Lewis, a Mountain View student and youth worker, said he is aware of drugs and alcohol. “I think they are pretty stupid and I don’t care for them.”
Two sisters, nine-year-old Joli and eight-year-old Joclyn, played on the playground as the presentations went on. Joli said she thinks gangs “are bad.”
The next alcohol, drug and gang awareness gathering will be held at Victory Acres II in April.