The Words of the Yakawich Family

9th Annual March Against Drugs and Violence

Mike Yakawich
June 10, 2006
Billings, Montana

On June 10th, 2006, the community of Billings, Montana, took part in the 9th Annual March Against Drugs and Violence. Youth, community members, civic, church and political members participated in this annual event. Co sponsored by the Montana American Clergy Leadership Conference, the Family Church, Billings Police Department, Tumble Weed, several other community organizations and churches, the turn out this year was exceptional. We broke our goal of 300 participants.

Originally founded by ACLC clergy nine years ago with less than ten participants in 1998, it has grown into a community event. Today, we exceeded 325 people in participation. The program began with an enthusiastic group at the Courthouse Lawn. Pastor Mike Yakawich of the Family Church and Lisa Posada-Griffin of the DUI Billings Police Department Taskforce were M.C.'s for the program. The event began with music in the background from the AVID Musical Group, and Hana Pestle, a local teen singer.

Next, a wonderful prayer was given by Rev. Tom Schlotteraback of the Lutheran King of Glory Church. His prayer was firm as he stated, "Lead us always away from ways of violence and the abuse of drugs." Preceding this were encouraging words of praise and pride by Chief of Police St. John. He commented, "I am proud of each citizen here who sees drugs and violence as a very serious issue and is willing to take a stand against them."

Then a proclamation by the Mayor was read by a State Representative. The Mayor’s words praised each participant as he wrote in the Proclamation "This is a great community which realizes its problems and is willing to address these issues with confidence and honesty, coming together in faith."

Our march then began, led by a Boy Scout Troop under the leadership of Mr. Chad Martin. The entire group of marchers walked about one mile around the downtown Billings. A Billings Police Department bike patrol guided the group, providing safety and traffic stops all along the way. It was especially inspiring for many to walk in the middle of 27th Street, the busiest street in the downtown. The marchers blew horns and carried the banner of the event with the Elks Club Anti-Drug mascot, "Elroy," walking the entire distance.

The group then arrived back to the Courthouse Lawn to another waiting group and music by the band for the main event. Rev. Dr. Dennis Briggs, the co-chair of ACLC and minister of the Chapel of the Diamond Heart Church, led the entire audience in prayer over the meal and success in our work. As people proceeded to a wonderful barbecue on the lawn provided by many volunteers, we had some wonderful inspirational speakers.

These speakers included representatives from Montana’s federal and state elected offices.

We not only had a band performing but a youth ensemble from the Family Church who performed an instrumental of the "Chariots of Fire". Our other sponsors included Coca Cola, Meadow Gold, State Ave. IGA, Irma House and Signs Etc. who donated or gave at cost a great deal of refreshments and food for the barbecue.

The local media was a fantastic support for our annual event. The local CBS and NBC affiliates did interviews with us earlier in the week and then placed our events on that night's local news programs. The Billings Gazette printed and outstanding Letter to the Editor about the event from one of our key sponsors. The weekly paper, The OutPost, also had a nice public service announcement of the event.

We find such events provide a positive model to address such issues as drugs and violence, an opportunity is provided to present sound information for the participants to deal with these serious issues, and a showing that organizations can work together to find common ground and teamwork. In addition, personally, the events show the community that our church is willing to roll up our sleeves and invest through community service.

We were especially fortunate to have a local judge from the Drug Court be a guest speaker. She praised our march and was very thankful for a grant she received to buy bikes for those in need and involved in the drug court. Their grant was written and obtained partially based on the march's success over the years.

You could sense a real community atmosphere. Guests were sitting in the park, listening to the speakers and musical as well as talking with each other. There were many children with their parents. We had several races, faiths, and cultures represented. It was a miraculous day. It had rained hard the night before and in the early morning. By the time our program began, the sun was shinning with 74 degree weather, much sunshine and good cheer. A dozen door prizes were handed out.

It is inspiring to plan such events alongside the police department, county and city youth organizations, local churches and neighborhood groups. The ACLC membership is especially inspired to not just have meetings every month, but to go out together in the community and work together on some important social issues. Our own church members gained a great deal of vitality by being out in the public and living for the greater good. Our youth gained a greater vision of our church that is not limited to our four walls of our own facility.

We are very grateful for Bishop Lee and Rev. Gerhard Wiesinger who provide important guidance and support on the regional level. We are indebted to the many local families and members of our church such as the Martin, DiLorenzo, Thiessen, MacMillan, Laramee and Yakawich families for all their hard work and investment to the program. In addition, other friends from the local schools and their parents, local home church members are all such a big help to the success of this event. Certainly, we are grateful for the inspiration of the Core Values from Hyun Jin Nim Moon, the value of community service and our True Parents’ incredible example of living for the greater good that encourages us and inspires us to do the same.

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