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Orthodox Christian Coalition for Healthy Youth Receives Five-Year Grant

WESTWOOD, Massachusetts - The Orthodox Christian Coalition for Healthy Youth (OCCHY), Very Rev. Dr. Joseph F. Purpura and Kathleen A. Purpura announce the award of a five-year grant for its Greater Chicago Coalition. OCCHY – Cicero/Greater Chicago was awarded a $125,000 Drug Free Communities Support Program FY 2011 grant by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The Coalition serves the Villages of Lincolnwood, Niles, and Skokie, IL, as well as the eighty-plus Orthodox parishes of the Greater Chicago area. ONDCP and SAMHSA offer the potential of an additional five-year extension of the grant. Under the excellent guidance of the Very Rev. Nicholas Dahdal, Pastor, the Grantee is St. George Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, Cicero, IL.

Orthodox Christian Coalition for Healthy Youth is a national alliance founded by the Department of Youth and Parish Ministries of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese. Fr. Joseph Purpura, Chairman of the Department of Youth, and Kathleen Purpura, Youth Consultant and Executive Director of OCCHY, trained with the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), worked with the White House Director of Drug Free Communities and also the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Each coalition addresses factors that increase the dangers associated with underage drinking, binge drinking, prescription medication abuse, tobacco use, illegal drug use, and other substance use and abuse.The coalitions establish and maintain collaborative efforts among community members within local, state, government and non-profit agencies to address the issues of drug use and actively work to reduce problems associated with substance abuse.

“Data show that community efforts to reduce youth substance use through the DFC program are effective, said ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske. “I commend coalitions like Orthodox Christian Coalition for Healthy Youth who work tirelessly to prevent and reduce youth drug use across the Nation.” OCCHY also addresses righteous living, instills healthy sexuality values, addresses the issue of bullying, encourages respect for the sanctity of the human body, and works to build strong leaders in body, mind and spirit. “Our vision is to see each community making positive changes for a healthier environment so our young people will reach their potential and become strong Orthodox Christian leaders” said OCCHY Executive Director, Kathleen Purpura. “We develop community networks to address substance abuse prevention and healthy living in parishes of each diocese. After a local chapter is trained, the sector members will be a resource in training and developing coalitions beyond their geographic area by helping other Antiochian parishes, other Orthodox Christian jurisdictions and other faith-based communities throughout their diocesan area. By developing a model for faith-based coalition building, we are establishing, training, and leading substance abuse prevention and intervention coalitions across America.”

Orthodox Christian Coalition for Healthy Youth was one of 87 new grantees selected from 452 applicants through a competitive, peer-reviewed process. To qualify for matching grants, awardees must have at least a six-month history of working together on substance abuse reduction initiatives, have representation from 12 specific sectors of the community, develop a long-term plan to reduce substance abuse, and participate in the national evaluation of the DFC program. One supporting partnership of OCCHY is the service organization, The Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch. As a member of The Order, Dena Haddad Fasheh took an overwhelming workload to ensure all aspects of the application were in place. Parent Sector member Anna Kurian hopes to build resiliency in the youth. “We need to be responsible citizens and conquer this societal epidemic because it affects every one of our families in one way or another. We have the ability to be the moral compass that can help improve the welfare of our people and our community. This is a community-wide issue and as a faith-based organization, we are in a strong position to initiate and support initiatives to prevent, intervene and reduce substance abuse.” The coalition’s youth serving organization is an overwhelming factor in reaching out to community youth. SOYO (Society of Orthodox Youth Organization) calls the youth to live the Orthodox Faith through worship, witness, service and fellowship. “Parents don't realize that their youth are faced with issues such as alcohol abuse on a daily basis. The good backgrounds many of us come from cannot shelter us from the outside world… My parish has chosen to focus on alcohol, tobacco (including Hookahs), and prescription drugs. I think the main strength of OCCHY is the ability for each coalition to customize and tailor the efforts to their community” said Teen Sector Member, Gloria Petrelli. This new funding will allow the members of St. George Orthodox Church, Cicero, IL to mobilize their community in Greater Chicago to combat substance use.

For more information on how your parish and community can become part of our

Orthodox Christian Coalition for Healthy Youth efforts, contact:

Kathleen A Purpura, Executive Director of OCCHY -

Visit the Orthodox Christian Coalition for Healthy Youth website.

More information on the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch is available here.

Visit the St. George Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, Cicero, IL website.

More information about the Drug-Free Communities Program is available here.