A message of hope, goodness during a time of uncertainty

“If you see something, say something.”

Acts of kindness http://www.thecamarilloacorn.com/news/2016-07-22/Editorials/A_message_of_hope_goodness_during_a_time_of_uncert.html

      We are blessed to be Americans in the 21st century. However, I believe that we sometimes get too caught up with protecting our space and rights. We worry about protecting our privacy. We worry about invading someone else’s privacy.

It is reasonable to respect boundaries. But at the same time, when we notice a friend or a stranger who is need of help, it’s important to offer them our assistance.

If we see a teen that is lost and going down the wrong path or a couple struggling with their marriage, a neighbor who is having a difficult time financially, an elderly person who is depressed and homebound, or a colleague who is a wreck emotionally or spiritually, it’s important we don’t look the other way in the name of privacy. We must take action.

I propose we change the saying to: “If you see something, do something.”

Of course, we need to make sure that our action is helpful. Sometimes that means getting the right person in place to help.

Great examples of people who respond and do something when people are in need are the men and women of the police department.

Having worked side by side with local law enforcement over the last six years to prevent drug and alcohol abuse among our youth, I have built tremendous respect for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.

These individuals put their lives on the line on a daily basis to keep our community safe and help in emergencies. I thank them and bless them for all that they do and tell them that they are all in our prayers. May they and their families stay safe from harm’s way.

One morning as I was walking in Camarillo near the Chabad Jewish Center near Leisure Village, I saw an elderly lady leaned over her walker nearly hitting the ground. Three of us quickly came to her aid, got her on her feet and into her car.

With all the news about hate and violence toward people, it’s nice to know that the vast majority of people do care about their fellow humans and want to do the right thing.

The renowned Jewi s h leader the Lubavitcher Rebbe would often say that we live in messianic times. He felt this way because there has never been a time in history when so many people of the world live at peace with each other.

Yes, I’m aware of the darkness that still exists, but if you look at the big picture, globally we are living during the best and safest time in history.

We are certainty lucky to be living in a democratic country.

Let’s use our freedom to do random acts of goodness and kindness because a little bit of light chases away a lot of darkness.

Rabbi Aryeh Lang

Lang is the executive director of Saving Lives Camarillo and Chabad of Camarillo.

Reality Party for Parents of Camarillo Youth

Several dozen parents came out to tour a local home on May 21st.  Over a dozen youth from four different local high schools spent the entire morning rehearsing and practicing for the 5 tours scheduled from 2 – 5 pm.  Each half hour tour concluded with a briefing session with Audrey Slaugh, MFT and Straight Up Founder Katherine Kasmir.  The event is just one of the many activities that help us educate parents about the harm in allowing youth to have parties with underage drinking.

Local parents watching simulated youth drinking games

Local parents watching simulated youth drinking games



Saving the Lives of Young Teens in Southern California


Saving the Lives of Young Teens in Southern California

Chabad rabbis propel a substance-abuse program to keep kids safe and parents informed

California Saving Lives Coalition representatives at the U.S. Senate building during training in January. Standing, second from right, is Laurie Jackson, community coalition coordinator of Saving Lives Camarillo.
California Saving Lives Coalition representatives at the U.S. Senate building during training in January. Standing, second from right, is Laurie Jackson, community coalition coordinator of Saving Lives Camarillo.

Bringing together parents, youth and the greater community, Saving Lives Camarillo is a substance-abuse awareness organization that began seven years ago in California. The Saving Lives Camarillo Coalition has become a place where community members come together to help youth make wise choices. Its primary efforts are geared to reduce alcohol, drug and prescription-medication abuse by minors.

In 2009, Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, director of Chabad West Coast Headquarters in Los Angeles, approached Rabbi Aryeh Lang, director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Camarillo, Calif., to start the program. It was, in part, derived from Cunin’s work with adult drug rehabilitation as a shaliach for the past 50 years. Instead of rehabilitation, however, Lang’s focus would be on drug and alcohol prevention among community youth.

Those involved with the organization come from all parts of the community, including local law-enforcement and government officials, career professionals, parents, religious leaders, teachers and rotary organizations. All have joined together with the goal of forming a collaborative effort to prevent youth from ages 11 to 17 from using drugs and alcohol.

“The whole community appreciates what we do,” says Lang, executive director of Saving Lives Camarillo, also known as SLC. “We especially have a long-standing and strong relationship with local law enforcement, which began with the former Chief of Police of Camarillo Steve DeCesari—now the assistant sheriff of Ventura County, Calif.—who for years would join us for our monthly coalition meetings at Chabad.

In fact, he helped form the coalition in 2009.

Isabel Savala, civil operations specialist of the Counter Drug Task Force, with Reilly Friedman, 14
Isabel Savala, civil operations specialist of the Counter Drug Task Force, with Reilly Friedman, 14

“I saw the commitment to the betterment of our children and the positive role the police department could provide, and agreed to be involved,” states DeCesari. “The police department has continued its involvement in the coalition because we consider it a valuable partnership with community. Rabbi Lang deserves much of the credit for seeing a community concern, obtaining the federal grant and putting together a true coalition of the community to bring these issues to the forefront and education the children and their parents.”

Guy Stewart, the other assistant sheriff of Ventura County, currently serves on the SLC leadership task force.

The city’s current chief of police, Cmdr. Monica McGrath, who was appointed last February, also makes it a point to attend coalition meetings and continues local law-enforcement’s trend of activism in this area.

‘Not Just Fun and Games’

In 2010, Saving Lives Camarillo was one of several hundred communities nationwide to receive a federal grant through the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Organization as part of the “Drug Free Community” program, which provides funds to organizations that work on improving their communities in this field. SLC currently has the grant until 2020.

Reilly and her father, Greg Friedman, both part of the Saving Lives Camarillo Coalition
Reilly and her father, Greg Friedman, both part of the Saving Lives Camarillo Coalition

“Saving our kids from drugs and alcohol in youth saves them from having a problem in the future,” said Greg Friedman, who is a part of the coalition with his 14-year-old daughter, Reilly. “SLC helps kids stay away from getting involved with the drug-and-alcohol culture, which has such a detrimental effect on them. I like that it helps kids become aware of the problems that these substances can cause—that it’s not just fun and games, that it can to lead to serious problems. I’m so happy that my daughter has a good perspective about substances, and I hope that she’ll make the right choices.”

Fourteen-year-old Reilly Friedman, who attends coalition meetings and babysits at parenting classes, said: “I used to think that people just used drugs and alcohol for fun, and that it was really stupid. But now, I just think it’s really sad why people do it because of depression or other things that happen in their lives; it’s an escape route. I’ve never really had a desire to use these things.”

Friedman is working towards establishing a substance-free club in her local high school to help spread this message to her peers.

Reilly and Laurie Jackson entertain children of those taking a Spanish parenting class.
Reilly and Laurie Jackson entertain children of those taking a Spanish parenting class.
Reilly often babysits so parents can utilize what SLC has to offer. As far as drugs and alcohol go, the teenager says: “I’ve never really had a desire to use these things.”
Reilly often babysits so parents can utilize what SLC has to offer. As far as drugs and alcohol go, the teenager says: “I’ve never really had a desire to use these things.”

Healthier Coping Options

“We need more coalitions like this because we need to reassure our children that they are important, and that they can have healthier coping options besides using alcohol and drugs,” states Isabel Savala, civil operations specialist of the Counter Drug Task Force, who has been part of SLC since 2013 as chair of the Parent Task Force. “This organization is a hub for both parents and children to come together to support living sober and drug-free. Many people in our society are often misinformed about alcohol and drugs and their effects, and Saving Lives helps dispel those beliefs by providing the most current information both to parents and children alike.”

According to Savala, some of the most effective initiatives have been when a local Ventura County Sherriff’s Deputy came to educate parents about current drug trends in Camarillo; when a doctor spoke about how alcohol and drugs effect the brain; and when a Spanish-speaking class took place to educate parents on how to talk to their children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. She also saw the success of the “Parents Who Host Lose the Most” campaign, which sends the message to parents who provide alcohol to minors in their home—whether they are present or not—that they can be fined up to $2,500.

Jackon and Shelly, a volunteer at a recent training session.
Jackon and Shelly, a volunteer at a recent training session.

“It has been very exciting to see how many students in the Camarillo schools have chosen to be involved with a club that promotes abstinence from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs,” says Laurie Jackson, community coalition coordinator of SLC. “It is so important to educate the students on their choices today and how those choices will affect their tomorrows.

“Many young people live in an environment with drugs and alcohol, and don’t know any differently until we educate them,” she continues. “We need to remind them as often as possible as they navigate some difficult events while they are growing up. Building a child’s self-esteem is a great start. We can make a difference. We need to do more than just say ‘No.’ We need to help them know why and how.

“These clubs are helping students find answers on their own.”

‘A Sense of Purpose’

SLC employs a wide range of tactics to accomplish its goals. The organization distributes surveys and information to send positive messages to young people and to determine if usage has dropped. It also organizes the Saving Lives Youth Task Force to encourage young people stay away from harmful substances and join abstinence clubs at school; hosts “safe and sober” parties after junior and senior proms; holds monthly coalition meetings, and monthly parent and youth task force meetings; works with government to limit access to marijuana; sells T-shirts with messages about safety and sobriety; and offers Spanish-speaking parenting classes at Chabad.

An additional focus is educating teachers and parents to know what types of behaviors young people are engaging in, why these are dangerous and then providing instruction as to how to talk to the under-18 set about them.

Rabbi Aryeh Lang, director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Camarillo, Calif.
Rabbi Aryeh Lang, director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Camarillo, Calif.

The newest project, according to Lang, is working to establish a moment of silence in the local schools. “This could help give students a greater sense of purpose,” he says. “I’m very excited about this ‘moment of silence’ strategy. Parents say that all of our initiatives have had positive effects on their children and have helped them.”

For Lang, the focus on the community at large—rather than just the Jewish community—is naturally aligned with his role as a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary.

“The Lubavitcher Rebbe [Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory] spoke about his followers serving all people, not just the Jewish community, in order to create an ethical community for all people,” explains the rabbi. “There is an obligation for all people to live moral, ethical lives and to make the whole world prepared for Moshiach’s coming. This lines up directly with what we’re doing with Saving Lives Camarillo.”

Saving Lives Camarillo welcomes new Coalition Coordinator


The Acorn Newspaper December 4th, 2015 Camarillo CA

Saving Lives welcomes new Coordinator

Laurie Jackson wants to use personal experiences to help others

By Stephanie Sumell

Laurie Jackson said helping young people avoid the perils of drug and alcohol abuse is more than just a job. It’s a calling.

The recovered alcoholic—she has been sober for 14 years— watched her older daughter develop a dependency on marijuana during her senior year of high school.

The teen, who removed truancy notices from the mailbox so her parents wouldn’t know she was cutting class, went to great lengths to hide her addiction.

“I watched my daughter disappear into a shell of a person,” said Jackson, 57. “She didn’t think pot was addictive, but within six months she was smoking every single day.”

Jackson, whose daughter has been sober for 11 years after spending time in a treatment center before graduating from high school, said the ordeal—coupled with her past struggles—inspired her to help others.

She took her post as the new coalition coordinator of Saving Lives Camarillo last month to help children and teens lead happy, healthy and productive lives.

The federally funded nonprofit organization has worked to educate the community on drug- and alcohol-related issues since it was founded six years ago.

It offers classes on a variety of topics, including drug-use prevention, and helps pay for supervised after-prom parties for Camarillo, Newbury Park and Rio Mesa high schools to keep students safe after the big dance.

The organization, which arranges for speakers to visit local middle and high schools to talk about the dangers of illegal drug use, also holds monthly meetings in which community members work together to promote a healthy environment.

“I’m so excited,” Jackson said of her new role with the nonprofit. “I’m looking forward to every piece of it.”
Karen Wrolson, her predecessor, will be returning to her home state of Wisconsin to work with truant youths. She worked for the faith-based organization for a year and a half. She was also a columnist for the Acorn.

Wrolson, a drug and alcohol expert who served on the committee that interviewed candidates for the position, said Jackson was the best person for the job. Wrolson’s last day was yesterday.

“Laurie is going to be an excellent replacement,” she said. “She has a great background with helping people with chemical addiction problems, both personally and professionally.”

Several years ago Jackson and her daughter began speaking to middle school students in Ventura about their struggles with drugs and alcohol.

“One of the many things a recovered alcoholic ought to do to stay sober is to help people,” Jackson said.
“The passion I have for (educating others) comes from the realization that kids that use alcohol or drugs before they are 20 are five to 10 times more likely to become an alcoholic or an addict.”

Jackson said she is committed to doing everything she can to prevent that from happening.

She will work closely with Rabbi Aryeh Lang, the executive director of Saving Lives Camarillo, and other staff members to provide adults and children with the tools and resources they need to combat drug use.

Jackson will spend part of her time garnering support from individuals and businesses to keep the organization afloat. She will also seek to increase parent involvement in Saving Lives activities.

“This is really, really personal,” she said of her motivation to serve the community. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Head of new advocacy group to bring message to middle schools

2014-08-15 / Health & Wellness

The Acorn Newspaper August 15, 2014 Camarillo CA

Head of new advocacy group to bring message to middle schools

By Stephanie Guzman

Karen Wrolson has long known the difficulties of keeping drugs and alcohol out of the hands of high school students.

She is, after all, the mother of two grown children and remembers their experiences as teenagers facing peer pressure to try alcohol. But the new head of Saving Lives Camarillo, a group that aims to stop drinking and drug use by teens, said she was surprised to learn that youngsters are taking their first sip of liquor as young as the fifth grade.

An informal survey of Adolfo Camarillo High School students done by Saving Lives Camarillo last year showed how young kids are exposed to drinking and drugs. The survey also revealed most Camarillo teens that drink said they had their first taste of alcohol in middle school.

Wrolson said because of the survey’s results, her goal this year is to start an anti-alcohol campaign in Camarillo middle schools. The new program will kick off this school year at Monte Vista Middle School.

Wrolson, a Camarillo resident, said the students themselves will lead the new initiative. “We plan to identify a group of student leaders within the school, and those students will help create activities for the other students to help young people realize the dangers of alcohol and drugs,” Wrolson said.

The second part of the new campaign will address Camarillo parents who host parties for underage drinkers. “The campaign will focus on social hosting laws within our city with the slogan, ‘Those who host lose the most,’” Wrolson said.

The city of Camarillo adopted social host laws in 2006. A homeowner can be fined $500 for hosting a party with underage drinkers, even if the homeowner was unaware of the party. The second violation is $1,000 and a third is $2,500. According to the Camarillo Police Department, 11 social host citations were issued in 2012.

Wrolson said the laws are working and the message of parent responsibility is spreading. In 2013, police only wrote two citations, and so far this year, only one citation has been written. “In the last six years, only one home has had a second violation, so they seem to get the message,” Wrolson said.

Still, teens are able to access alcohol. Wrolson said her organization used to assume teens obtained liquor from stores by asking adults to buy it for them. Yet the organization found most teenagers get alcohol from their parents’ pantry. “It’s usually from a household, so part of our message is, please lock up your alcohol because kids will take it to a party.”

As Saving Lives Camarillo’s new coalition community director, Wrolson said she looks forward to working with young people in the community.

In Wisconsin she has assisted in the development and management of two high schools for at-risk teenagers who often had substance abuse issues. She worked for the school district in Wisconsin between 1994 and 2011.

“It’s been my life’s mission to work with teenagers, and working with Saving Lives gives me the opportunity to continue to help young people make better life choices,” Wrolson said.

The educator has two master’s degrees in counseling and education and a business in Camarillo as a professional life coach. She is also a columnist for the Acorn.