Waynesboro's Marilyn Smith cares about her community

June 19, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - K. Marilyn Smith once tried to count the number of organizations of which she's a member of the board of directors.

She lost count at 17.

The organization probably closest to Smith's heart is Communities That Care, a Waynesboro-area nonprofit group that strives to improve the quality of life for youth.

"I really and truly care about the kids. I think we're letting them down in some areas, and I wish we could get to the parents more than we do," Smith said.

The local efforts began in 2001 under the guidance of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

"Chambersburg had a Communities That Care, and it kind of dissolved. There was a grant out there to start up another one," Smith said.


One of the first and now ongoing initiatives of Communities That Care is administering the biennial Pennsylvania Youth Survey, which reveals the "risk factors" and "protective factors" of youth in the community. The latter includes components like belief in a higher being and attachment to family.

"The risk factors that we found is that our kids aren't connected to their neighborhoods, they don't feel connected to their neighborhoods. Drinking is one of our No. 1 problems, underage drinking. One of the other ones we were really concerned about were parents' attitudes toward bad behavior," Smith said.

The survey serves as the basis for decisions about Communities That Care programs.

Past and current research-based programs include parenting classes, asset-building luncheons, and the "Too Good for Drugs" curriculum. Past groups to present through CTC include Philadelphia police's Heads-up drug education and the Save A Life Tour providing drunken driving simulators.

"We developed generation-to-generation events that bring high school students and senior citizens together. ... Last year, we turned it over to the SADD group, the Students Against Destructive Decisions group at the high school, and they did a super job," Smith said.

Prized possessions and karaoke have been shared in past generation-to-generation luncheons, Smith said. E-mail addresses were exchanged between teenagers and seniors, she said.

"This year, we got a grant to start Stars for Families, and it's a middle school alcohol awareness program," Smith said.

One of the biggest challenges for CTC remains fundraising; Smith has been trying to raise $5,000 for countywide billboards associated with the "Parents who Host Lose the Most" campaign about adults facilitating underage drinking.

"I'll get it done eventually," she promised.

Smith said residents and businesspeople can best help by donating or volunteering to Communities That Care, which maintains a Web site at

K. Marilyn Smith

Hometown: Waynesboro, Pa.

Occupation: Retired community health nurse

What is your proudest moment?: "I don't know. I'm proud of everything we've done. I really am."

Whom do you most admire, and why?: "A lot of people. I wouldn't want to name anybody because I have several people I admire."

What is the best piece of advice you ever received and who gave it to you?: Waynesboro's Bob Boerner "said to me, 'When you first come here, keep your eyes and ears open, and your mouth shut. You'll be fine.' He also said, 'Don't sweat the small stuff.'"

What is the next goal you would like to achieve?: "I want to have a campaign called 'Parents who Host Lose the Most.' It's directed toward parents who allow their kids to drink alcohol, and they don't realize what the consequences are to them."

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