Cora Taylor and Mike Wade discuss plans for the November 15 meeting of the Giles Youth-Adult Partnership.

For more than 20 years, the Giles Youth-Adult Partnership (GYAP) has undertaken countless projects and programs to help prevent or reduce substance use among the county’s young people. Those efforts have ranged from hosting speaking engagements by sitting governors to helping launch after-prom parties to conducting talent competitions for local students.

As with any organization, dozens of GYAP members and volunteers have come and gone over the past two decades. Although GYAP has historically been coordinated and primarily facilitated by Prevention Services staff from NRVCS (New River Valley Community Services), the group relies heavily on involvement from other agencies and community members – an area that officials are hoping they can expand upon in order to create positive change.

“A lot of folks forget – or maybe don’t even realize – that GYAP has a real history here,” explains Mike Wade, Communications and Outreach Coordinator for NRVCS and current facilitator for GYAP. “It all started in the mid-1990’s with a small group of community members who were concerned about the health and well-being of children and teens and they wanted to do something about it.”

Wade, who has been employed by NRVCS since 2000, has a deep personal connection to GYAP. Aside from being directly involved with GYAP at various intervals during his tenure with NRVCS, Wade’s late mother, Jackie, was one of the group’s founding members.

“I think a lot of the same issues that motivated her and the other founding members are still relevant today – if not more so,” adds Wade. “Twenty years ago, we could have never dreamed that our society would be so profoundly impacted by addiction. We thought we were ‘winning’ the ‘war on drugs’ back then but the disease of addiction never went away.”

“The opioid epidemic, as well as the prevalence of illicit drugs like heroin and meth – and even vaping – are seriously jeopardizing the overall health of our communities,” Wade continues. “Addiction is destroying families, deteriorating our workforce, and draining resources. We can no longer sit on our hands and hope things get better. We have to take action and find solutions.”

With this in mind, Wade recently reached out to Cora Taylor, his NRVCS co-worker and fellow Giles County native, to explore how the two could work together to address these issues. Taylor, who supervises NRVCS’ Special Deliveries program (which provides case management services to expectant or new mothers who have a diagnosed mental health disorder), had recently pulled together a grassroots initiative called “Empowering Giles County” to help bring tools and resources to county residents that would help them improve their lives.

“Our group was founded by a few people with a passion for change,” says Taylor. “Our heart is to empower those in our community by including them and bringing them hope when perhaps it’s hard to find.”

Since the two groups have similar missions, they have agreed to host a joint meeting for interested community members on Thursday, November 15 at the NRVCS Giles Clinic in Pearisburg (705 Wenonah Avenue, Pearisburg). That meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. Persons wishing to attend are asked to RSVP to Mike Wade at mwade@nrvcs.org by 12:00 noon on November 15.