Shrewsbury – Local and state officials, as well as representatives of social services, religious institutions and businesses, gathered at the Knights of Columbus Hall Oct. 30 for the annual Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services (SYFS) breakfast.
SYFS, located at 240 Maple Ave., is a private, nonprofit community counseling and social services agency that serves people of all ages who either live or work in the town of Shrewsbury.
At the breakfast, the organization’s executive director, Terry Cassidy, presented an overview of the past year as well as detailing some plans for the upcoming year.
SYFS has seven licensed therapists and one clinical psychologist that provide individual, couples, family and group counseling. The organization provided counseling to 332 residents over the past year; 86 percent of those treated reported alleviation of their symptoms and an improved quality of life, Cassidy said.
A total of 2,656 individuals ranging in ages from 5 to 99 participated in different programs designed to help them meet their basic needs, including 93 families who received fuel assistance.
The organization partners with the schools through different programs such as one for elementary students, “5-2-1-0, Let’s Go,” a nationally recognized childhood obesity prevention program; “Way to Go, Guys!” and “You Go Girl!,” designed to help boys and girls, respectively, gain confidence and learn healthy habits; and T.R.A.I.L. Blazers, a program that helps teens learn leadership skills.
Madison Dugan, the SYFS student liaison to the board of directors, was one of those teens who participated in this past summer’s T.R.A.I.L. Blazers program. Addressing the audience, she admitted she was initially hesitant about attending the week-long program but said it turned out to be a wonderful experience.
Over the course of the week, Dugan and other teens had to research and then create public service announcement videos that were then shown on the town’s cable access station. They also created a map of the town’s 19 parks and recreational areas.
Going forth, Cassidy noted that SYFS has recently received a three-year Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant to help address mental health issues in youth.
SYFS will also be partnering with other organizations to address the opiate epidemic which has touched Shrewsbury as it has across so many other communities across the nation.
Shrewsbury’s Drug Free Community Coalition will bring together members of the school system, healthcare professionals and business leaders, as well as local and state officials, to focus on ways create meaningful drug prevention activities, Cassidy said.
Goals will include “reducing factors in the community that increase the risk of substance abuse and promote the factors that minimize the risk of substance abuse,” she said.
After Cassidy’s presentation, Ellen Dolan, director of the Shrewsbury Public Library, addressed the audience to give an update on the library’s $23 million expansion.
The project was on schedule, she noted, with crews now preparing the site so that they would be able to work inside during the winter months.
At the breakfast, SYFS also presented the Michael Gregory Award for 2015 to the library’s young adult librarian, Daniel Barbour. The award is presented annually to a supporter who has “given extraordinary effort and support.”