MARTINSBURG, W.Va. --
The proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” implies the important role community plays in the upbringing of a child.
Positive interactions with members of the community can be especially invaluable to children living with parents who are addicts or abusive, according to Tiffany Hendershot, a clinical social worker for Berkeley County Schools, project director for The Martinsburg Initiative and a member of the 167th Airlift Wing.
Hendershot conveyed the devastating impact opioid addictions are having on local children during a Lunch and Learn event here at the 167th Airlift Wing, May 30. She also outlined a number of ways that service members and community members can get involved to help at-risk children.
“West Virginia is experiencing a crisis and the National Guard is normally called in during times of crisis. Now is the time to get involved and save the children who are the victims of the drug epidemic,” Hendershot said.
Hendershot, who has worked with local schools for more than four years, said she sees the same children continually struggle with their behavior in class. She compared it to jumping into a river to save the same children from drowning over and over.
“We need to close the gate so the children don’t get into the river in the first place,” she said stressing the importance of prevention.
Hendershot discussed Dr. Vincent Felitti’s Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences study, or ACEs study, which has shown that adverse childhood experiences negatively impact physical and mental health, cognitive and social development and the ability to function as a productive adult member of society. As the number of adverse childhood experiences increase, the probability of adult dysfunction rises.
“If we know which kids have high ACEs scores, we can intervene,” Hendershot said.
As the project director for The Martinsburg Initiative, Hendershot is working with students, families, schools, law enforcement and community members in what she described as a “wrap-around approach” to intervene and combat the opioid epidemic.
Hendershot urges 167th AW members to get involved in the local schools by doing simple things such as reading to students, greeting parents and students at drop-off and pick-up times, joining students while they eat breakfast or lunch or helping in a classroom. She also suggests mentoring at the Boys and Girls Club or with the We Can program.
“By volunteering at a school, a club or camp, or even being a mentor for a student at-risk you have the ability to make a difference for the future of our great state,” Hendershot said.
Wing members interested in volunteering should contact Capt. David Groom at 304-616-5240 or firstname.lastname@example.org.