We generally try to use this space to share prevention messages from the STEPS Coalition; however, I would like to take this time to recognize the true driving force behind the coalition: Kelly Leppard. She has been the prevention coordinator since the inception of STEPS.
Just last week, she was recognized by the Connecticut Association of Prevention Professionals as being the prevention professional of the year. I cannot think of anyone that deserves this more. (I also know that Kelly strongly dislikes the spot light, so I had to write this without her knowing!)
The STEPS Coalition was formed in 2007 in response to multiple youth deaths by suicide. An important group of decision-makers gathered at a picnic table for a discussion aimed at ensuring that Southington youth were well protected and had a safety net to catch them if they did happen to fall. Southington’s Town-Wide Effort to Promote Success, a prevention coalition, was created.
Over the next few years, funding to further the efforts of the coalition was secured through SAMHSA and the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The drug-free communities grant was awarded to STEPS for substance misuse prevention initiatives and gave the coalition a financial backing to put youth prevention efforts in place. (I am making it sound way easier than it was. There was so much work that went into submitting that grant,)
Leppard attended countless trainings on substance misuse prevention and the foundations of coalition work. She brought the strategic prevention framework to Southington, demonstrating the importance of assessment, capacity building, planning, implementation and assessment. Kelly began laying the prevention ground work across the community and enlisted different community sectors (13 to be exact) to work on substance misuse prevention and raising great kids in Southington.
Having a natural ability to bring people together comes easily to Leppard, and those of us that have the privilege of interacting with her know that she is very easy to be around. Her kindness, friendliness and genuine warm heart make people eager to get involved and help. The same still holds true today. Because of Leppard, 35 people come together monthly to talk about drug prevention and how we can keep the youth of Southington safe and drug free.
Leppard is known in the state as a resource to other prevention professionals and coalitions. Her knowledge, perseverance and determination make the STEPS Coalition top notch. Other communities come to her seeking advice and guidance, which she graciously shares and also adds a bit of humor. Leppard’s positivity is contagious and she makes even the most mundane tasks fun and full of laughter.
Anyone who knows her knows she hates taking the credit, and she would say none of the coalition’s work would be possible without each one of us. However, we know that none of it would be possible without her. Kelly’s energy and passion for the community she grew up in is second to none, and Southington is better with her in it.
Megan Albanese is the Southington STEPS Coalition outreach coordinator. She can be reached at (860) 276-6281 or firstname.lastname@example.org.