News - Hero


Marney Simon
Staff writer

The members of the Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition are dedicated to making a better community.

Now, those members are looking for an opportunity to expand their reach with a possible partnership with other Will County towns.On May 13, members of the BAHCC met for their regular monthly meeting at the Braidwood fire house on Main Street. On the agenda, the possibility of pooling resources with Wilmington and Peotone to create an umbrella organization, which can have a further reach into Will County and seek out additional funds from the state.

The move is not a simple one, however. Members need to decide how to combine resources while maintaining their core principals of prevention strategies for a healthier community. Members who had met earlier in the month with officials in Peotone said they'd like to find a way for the three communities to take on challenges as a team."Our action teams would be able to work together," said Pete Dell'Aquila, BAHCC Project Coordinator.

The idea is to come together to provide a more comprehensive prevention strategy to a broader base of people. But the idea is just in its infancy. Currently, Wilmington already has a active coalition with more funding than the BAHCC, and the group has also been active longer. So the two coalitions would need to work together to navigate the ins and outs of a partnership without inadvertently getting in the way of prevention projects already under way. The hope of the BAHCC expressed this week was simply to try to come up with ideas to work with Wilmington for the greater good."We're trying to coordinate on the strategic plan, but we'd like to get them around the table here as well, because our communities have similar problems. We're all in it together," Dell'Aquila said.

The next step is to work with Wilmington to see if a partnership is feasible, Dell'Aquila said. If the groups come together, they would maintain community involvement, but the coalition as a whole would have more opportunities to apply for grants to apply to specific education or prevention strategies. 

Grant funds are dependent on the population served, so combining some resources with Wilmington and Peotone could simply mean more cash. That cash can be used for training and creating resources for teens and parents to help fight the illegal use of drugs and alcohol.

"We need to broaden how we serve," explained Joan Leigh of Chestnut Health Systems, a partner of the BAHCC which helps with administrative oversight.

Leigh said that Wilmington's current grant focuses on tobacco, marijuana and alcohol. Right now, the BAHCC's main focus is alcohol. Leigh said this was a good opportunity for the groups to work together on some of those overlapping issues.

"They'll partner with us on that piece of it," Leigh said. "Where our strategies overlap. And that can actually only be a good thing."

Earlier this month, members of the BAHCC, including city leaders and officials from the Reed-Custer school district, met with coalition members from Peotone, and saw the possibility for positive collaboration. The next step, members hope, is to bring in Wilmington and make the coalition stronger.

"If we talk broader than our boundaries, we can probably do better things and help out kids in a better way," Leigh said.

The next step will be for committee members from each of the three cities to come together and see if and how they can work together. That meeting is expected to be later this month.

The BAHCC is a grassroots, volunteer organization dedicated to preventing illegal use of drugs and alcohol by youths in the area.

The vision of the BAHCC, as stated in the group's by-laws, is to assist the community to create a safe and drug-free environment where each and every citizen is nurtured to realize their personal, educational, and economical potential. The group's mission statement reads, "The Braidwood Area Healthy Community Coalition assists the families within the Braidwood area to live healthier and happier lives through education, service, and safe and drug-free activities in order to establish adult/teen respect, healthy family lifestyles, safe homes for parties and activities, and a community center to house outreach programs for all."

BAHCC members include representatives from the Braidwood City Council, the Braidwood Police Department and the Braidwood Fire Protection District. Those local leaders have taken an active role in the coalition, and are encouraging the public to follow their lead.

The BAHCC meets the second Monday of each month at 4:30 p.m. at the Braidwood fire house on Main Street. The meetings are open to the public.