Former reporter and Blount Memorial Hospital public relations manager Jessica Stith is taking on a new challenge, so her friends, colleagues and co-workers in the community turned out Aug. 25 to celebrate and wish her well.
Stith is now the project manager with the Blount Memorial Foundation and Community Outreach and is charged with an important mission: Working to stop juvenile drug abuse.
“I am very excited to get started at the Blount Memorial Foundation and Community Outreach as the project manager of the Drug Free Communities grant,” said Stith.
Drug Free Communities is a federal grant that provides $125,000 per year, for 10 years with a goal of lowering and preventing substance use and abuse in youth - specifically for prescription drugs and alcohol, Stith explained.
Stith said local student surveys show that kids don’t start experimenting with illicit drugs, but instead begin using the substances they have the most access to, such as prescription drugs and alcohol. “By working with law enforcement, schools and many other community partners, we hope to reduce youth access to these substances and educate kids, their parents and the community as a whole on the dangers of abusing drugs and alcohol,” she said “The Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team has already been working hard on these efforts - and I am thrilled to join them.”
Being a part of the foundation team also has Stith excited.
“I feel honored to work with such a wonderful group of ladies at the Foundation, who I am positive I will learn much from,” she said. “Jane Andrews is an amazing leader and a strong force in making positive changes in this community. Judy Clabough does an outstanding job with directing the Blount County Community Health Initiative, and Dawn Spangler is the Foundation’s secret weapon for making sure all of our events come to fruition.”
Stith also thanked Sheriff James Berrong, Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp and Alcoa Police Chief Ken Burge as well as the school coordinated health coordinators Heather Ledbetter, Mary Beth Blevins and Kelly Gallemore.
“I appreciate the great turnout at the reception today, and I am very thankful to have so many friends, community partners and concerned citizens that share in our same hopes and goals for a better, healthier Blount County,” she said. “I truly love this community and am grateful for so many caring neighbors who are on the same page.”
Berrong said Stith is a great asset to the foundation. “We’ve worked with Jess for a number of years in different capacities, and we look forward to this working relationship.”
Crisp said he got to know Stith when she was beginning her career as a reporter and has always had a great deal of respect for her. “She was a fair reporter. I was able to work with her to some degree when she was with public relations with the hospital, and I always found her to be very helpful and well informed,” he said. “With this new position as project manager for the foundation in community outreach, we’re really excited and feel the program will be a great success.”
Stith can be reached at 865-977-5745 or via email at JLStith@bmnet.com.