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Students, law enforcement hope Red Ribbon sends a message
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Effingham County High School Interact Club member Abi Johnson and Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie tie a red ribbon on the Effingham County sign at the county line on Highway 21. - photo by Photo by Paul Floeckher

Being involved in Red Ribbon Week activities as an Ebenezer Elementary School student left a lasting impression on Peter Waltz.

“I was always active in Red Ribbon Week,” Waltz recalled. “They always stressed the importance of it, so we just grew up with (the message that) drugs are bad — and it clicked for me.”

Now a senior at Effingham County High School, Waltz and his fellow Interact Club members are passing along the anti-drug message of Red Ribbon Week.

ECHS Interact joined the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia State Patrol, Port Wentworth Police Department and Chatham County Sheriff’s Office in tying a symbolic red ribbon at the Effingham-Chatham county line Tuesday morning.

Having teenagers encouraging their peers to stay off drugs is an invaluable part of the effort to combat drugs in the community, said Effingham County Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie.

“We can’t do it by ourselves,” he said. “We just don’t have enough manpower, don’t have enough hours in the day. But when we can get the young people to join us and say, ‘We’ve had enough, we’re tired of it,’ that’s when it all starts coming together and you can be successful in your war on drugs.”

Complicating matters, McDuffie said, is that the abuse, manufacturing and trafficking of drugs is constantly evolving. For example, when he became sheriff in 2002, law enforcement agencies were just starting to learn more about methamphetamine and how to combat it.

“If anybody tells you that you don’t have a drug problem in your county, they’re lying to you,” McDuffie said. “You do. You may not see it yet, but I’m telling you, you will.”

The Interact Club members are well aware that some of their fellow students use drugs. Waltz maintained that staying drug-free “says a lot about your character.”

“Every high school is going to have it,” he said, “but as long as we can keep stressing the importance of (not doing drugs), the majority aren’t going to fall into that.”

It’s no secret that teenagers often make decisions based on what their peers are doing. However, Red Ribbon Week can turn that into a positive, Interact member Abi Johnson pointed out.

“Being involved not only is good for you personally, but it’s good for the people around you,” Johnson said. “They see that, ‘oh, she’s involved in it and she’s pretty fun to be with,’ or ‘he’s involved with it and he seems like a cool guy; maybe we should get involved with it, too.’”