Gina DeCampo Wins 2017 ACE Award

Congratulations to Gina DeCampo for winning our 2017 ACE Award.

In an effort to recognize the inspired, positive action happening every day, Greater Falls Connections (GFC) is excited to announce Gina DeCampo of Bellows Falls as the recipient of the 2017 Active Community Engagement (A.C.E.) Award. Recipients of this award are the unsung heroes within our community who foster positive change and are dedicated to creating safe, healthy and fun options for youth, families and the community at large.

DeCampo, a volunteer firefighter with Saxtons River Fire Department and also a volunteer with GFC’s Advanced Above The Influence (AATI) youth group, was announced as the latest recipient of the A.C.E. Award by Greater Falls Connections at the annual GFC BBQ at the Rockingham Rec Center on July 27. The staff members of Greater Falls Connections, Laura Schairbaum, Deb Witkus, and Scott Sharland, presented the award to DeCampo. She was awarded for being a strong role model and mentor for the youth of the community.

DeCampo has volunteered for the GFC coalition for several years. She helps facilitate weekly AATI youth group meetings and has helped members learn more about youth mental health first aid to prevent substance abuse, suicide, and depression. She has been a key part of planning and running the annual Park-A-Palooza community block party in June. Following the closure of the Bellows Falls Boys & Girls Club in June 2016, DeCampo began volunteering with the Friends For Change (FFC) youth group, which has been creating a new club for area youth. Besides working directly with the youth members, she has spearheaded recruiting additional volunteers for the club.

According to Schairbaum, “Gina gives selflessly to so many things seen and unseen, and cares deeply about the youth in this community. We are so grateful for all that she does and her strong commitment to everything she is a part of.” DeCampo accepted the award and stated, “If I could tell you only one thing, it would be if you walk by someone on the street who may be struggling, say hello and give them your smile, it will make a huge difference.” DeCampo was nominated by both Emma Wetherby and Hailee Galandak-Cochran. According to Galandak-Cochran, “Gina is committed to building a better community and is passionate about keeping our youth safe. She cares deeply about connecting with young people who need support. She goes above and beyond to create a safe place for the most vulnerable in our community.”

For this year’s award, DeCampo faced strong competition from several other nominees: Bonnie Anderson from the Bellows Falls Community Bike Project, Doreen Stoodley from the Great Falls Regional Chamber of Commerce, Emily Petretti from FFC and GFC; the staff members of Our Place Drop-in Center, led by Lisa Pitcher, were also nominated. DeCampo joins Sam Fletcher, Sam Maskell, Christine Bullard, Barbara Ternes, Ryan Stoodley, and Mike Malick as A.C.E. Award winners. The A.C.E. Award is sponsored by Greater Falls Connections.

ACE Award Nominations 2016

This is your chance to nominate a diligent and deserving individual whom you feel is an unsung hero and an asset to the community, quietly affecting change and contributing to the quality of life in our community! 
Submission deadline is Friday, June 24, 2016.  Award will be presented at our July BBQ.  Click on this link to nominate someone: ACE Award Nominations 2016ACE Playing card

Parent Up Vermont

PARUP_SUPPORTER_BUTTONVermont parents know it’s important to have conversations with their kids about alcohol and drug use. It’s important for parents to remember that it’s not just the questions you ask, but it also depends on how you ask the questions. – See more at:

Community Meeting on Feb. 24 at RFPL

Greater Falls Connections invites you to join us for a community meeting at the Rockingham Free Public Library in Bellows Falls on Wednesday, February 24 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. The coalition will share plans for the Drug-Free Communities Grant that have been developed with the community over the past few months. This a great chance for you to provide your input before we make the final submission for this grant application.

Dinner will be at 6pm, with discussions beginning at 6:30pm. Let’s come together as a community to help youth thrive and avoid alcohol and other drug abuse. Parents, kids, school staff, and all others are welcome. Greater Falls Connections… “Prevention through Inspiration!”

Holidays, Addiction, and Support

The holiday season can be a fantastic, festive time. It can be a time for us to slow down, reconnect with the people we care about, and reflect on the year gone by. The holidays can also be overwhelming. Stress caused by work, school, strained relationships, or finances can certainly take a toll.

Some might turn toward drugs or alcohol to cope, or some might already be quietly struggling with a substance addiction. More than 22 million Americans over the age of 12 are dealing with substance dependence, according to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

What follows are some tips we can all use during the holidays to alleviate the collective stress, decrease substance use, and support those coping with an addiction:

  • Knowing the triggers: It’s helpful to know the particular event, circumstance, situation or feeling that might trigger the use of substances. Crisis, anxiety, isolation or stress are but a few of the most severe.
  • The stress, or anticipation of stress, during the holidays might be heightened by fear of confrontation, fear of financial challenges, or fear of how to hide substance use.
  • Knowing these triggers can help to avoid situations, or to prepare ahead of time. Additionally, understanding the triggers and reducing the level of stress during the holidays can dramatically improve our mental well-being and prevent substance use and abuse.
  • Signs of use: It can be awfully tricky for parents, friends, and relatives to know if a loved one or friend is using or abusing alcohol or other drugs.
  • If you are concerned that someone you know might be using or abusing drugs, here are a few things to be aware of:
    • Sharp or sudden change in mood.
    • Defensiveness;
    • Withdrawal;
    • Smell of substances such as alcohol or marijuana, or strong fragrances to cover up the odor.
    • While use does not necessarily mean that one is abusing a substance, sudden shifts in behavior might be cause for concern.
  • Be that solid friend or relative: How can we help prevent the use of substances or support someone struggling with addiction during the holidays? There are numerous ways to be there for your family and friends.
  • Above all, use open, honest communication. Listen and be free of judgment. Be comforting and compassionate. Make a few calls and compile a few websites or blogs for him or her.
  • Be sure to lock or secure all your prescription medications. It helps to count your prescriptions, especially if you are having guests over to your home.
  • During the holidays, plan meals and activities with no or limited alcohol. In general, limit availability during the holidays, and always provide non-alcoholic options.
  • On that note, come up with physical activities to keep people moving and active. Go for walks, snowshoe, or build snow forts. (With recent weather, tossing the football around or going for a bike ride might be more realistic.)
  • Play games or watch movies together. (Try a raging game of charades, or make some popcorn and turn on A Christmas Story.)
  • Finally, make sure everyone eats well and gets plenty of sleep.

Laugh, listen, converse and connect. Happy holidays!

Take the “Teen Brains Matter” Promise!

I Will Be Parent
All summer long, we are encouraging parents to speak to their teens about alcohol. Simply fill out the form below.

Take the “Teen Brains Matter” Promise!

Smoke-Free Zones: Rockingham Free Public Library

Announcing the launch of our latest video, which promotes the Smoke-Free Zone at the Rockingham Public Library.

Learn about the impact of the Smoke-Free Zone at the Rockingham Free Public Library. In this edition, Celina Houlne and Sam Maskell are interviewed by Greater Falls Connections’ Scott Sharland. To get your very own Smoke-Free Zone sign, contact Greater Falls Connections at scott (at) or call us at 802-463-9927 x213.

Thanks to all the following businesses, schools, and public places that participated:
Greater Falls Pharmacy
Rockingham Medical Group and Squeaky Sneakers
Lisai’s Market
Shona Grill
Windham Northeast Supervisory Union (WNESU)
Rockingham Parks and Recreation

Thanks to FACT TV and Alex Stradling for filming this video. Thanks to Eileen Katchen for the great photography work. Video edited by Scott Sharland and Dominic Farinoli.

Make a Fresh Start for the New Year

Smoking Quit Classes Are Coming to Bellows Falls. Just in time for those New Year’s resolutions, Greater Falls Connections (GFC) and Springfield Medical Care Systems are partnering to provide tobacco cessation classes in Bellows Falls. The program consists of 4 weekly one-hour sessions, which will cover a variety of topics related to quitting smoking. Participants will learn about:

  • How to beat the addiction to nicotine
  • Skills for coping with cravings
  • Medication and effective approaches to quitting

Participants will also receive:

  • Counseling to build problem-solving skills
  • Moral support from a VT Quit Partner
  • Access to nicotine replacement therapy

The classes will run in January at Parks Place in Bellows Falls, with date and time to be determined. Pre-registration is required. In order to register, contact Scott Sharland at 802-463-9927 ext. 213 or send an email to scott AT Please select a valid formMicrosoft Word - Jan2015 Quit Classes FACT.docx

Park-a-Palooza 3 – Thank You!

Thank you for another successful Park-a-Palooza!

On Behalf of Greater Falls Connections, parent and youth organizers, we would like to share an ecstatic thank you to the many people, businesses and organizations that contributed to the Park-a-Palooza Neighborhood Block Party on Saturday, June 28th in Bellows Falls. Now in its third year, Park-a-Palooza is a completely community-driven, old school, crazy-fun block party. Festivities again took place at the Central Elementary School playground and included: A potato-sack race, jellybean contest, bicycle-powered smoothies, apple-bob contest, face painting, dodgeball, baseball bat spin-off and a water balloon “throw-down.” Plus, with a little help from our friends at the Bellows Falls Fire & Police Departments, kids and adults were able to cool off and play around a gushing fire hydrant.


Thanks to our two Grill Masters, Rose Smith and Marcy Fazzolare, as well as the numerous people who brought food, people were able to eat and snack all day long.

Thank you to the following local businesses, community organizations and individuals for your generous contributions and involvement that were vital to the day’s success: The Moose, Lisai’s Market, Parks Place Community Resource Center, United Natural Foods, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Youth Services, Windham Northeast Supervisory Union, Bellows Falls Community Bike Project, the Fatherhood Project, Hannaford’s, Brattleboro Food Co-Op, and the VT Liquor Store in Bellows Falls.

Through creative play using the games our parents and grandparents taught us, Park-a-Palooza is another example of community-driven change in action. Community-led activities such as this build trust and create connection. Not to mention, a whole lot of laughter.

We thank everyone involved for creating a fun, positive and meaningful day.