Every Person Impacts Community works to make positive difference

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KBSI) – Every Person Impacts Community (EPIC) is an organization in Cape Girardeau that works to make a positive difference by working with individuals, schools, businesses and other organizations in the community to support positive youth development and reduce risks associated with substance misuse. EPIC is a youth substance abuse prevention organization that works to build on the positives in young people and the community.

“We don’t do that with an old school sort of ‘just say no’ approach or telling people why they shouldn’t do something because it’s bad,” said Shelly Wood, Community Services Coordinator with EPIC. “We do it from more of a strengths based approach where we look at what’s positive with the young and with our community already and we work to build the positive and increase it to achieve the same result.”

EPIC does much more than educate about substance misuse. Past campaigns include a Steer Sober campaign to encourage adults who are at least 21 and who have decided to go out and drink to make the right decision to get a safe ride home. EPIC educates on the safe disposal of prescription medications. EPIC also hosts community events to bring kids, families and adults in the community together to enjoy fun activities, food, fellowship and support positive relationships.

“We also have a project called EPIC Schools and that is a project where we work with schools in the community to recognize them for the things that they are already doing really well and encourage them to see where they could add things that might be even more beneficial to the students who they work with,” Wood said.

Other activities held throughout the year include “A day at the park” in June where they cook, grill, and host craft and sports activities.

“It’s just a fun, free opportunity for everybody to get together and have some positive healthy fun together,” Wood said. “Every year in June we have our annual ‘A day at the park.’ That’s a day that we’ve frequently been having at Capaha Park. We used to have it at Washington Park. We’ve also had it at Arena Park in the past. It’s just an event where we cook. We grill out. We have craft activities. We have sports activities. All kinds of things that kids and families can participate in together. It’s completely free. Last year Ty’s Sno Cone donated snow cones for the event. The Conservation Department came out and had fishing for the event. So it’s just a fun, free opportunity for everybody to get together and have some positive healthy fun together.”

When COVID-19 began in 2020, EPIC started doing grab and go events. “We’re trying to do about four of those a year where we pre-stuff bags with information that could be helpful for young people, information that can be helpful for parents, but also things to just help people meet their basic needs, a light meal, lots of snacks, some hygiene items, also some activities that kids and families can do together at home to build relationships and hopefully build positive assets in young people,” Wood said. “Then we set up somewhere in the community and we give those bags out to anybody who needs them. We were doing 200 bags at a time. The last couple events we’ve done 250 bags at a time. We’re trying to do four of those events a year.”

Two different social and emotional learning programs, EPIC Pals and EPIC Lens, provide opportunities for young people to engage in fun activities while building relationships with other youths and adults and learn skills including self-awareness, self-management, and responsible decision making.

EPIC Pals works with young people and rescue dogs to increase skills in young people like empathy, compassion, dedication to service and emotional regulation skills. Some of the young people even get to train the dogs and work to try to find homes for the dogs when they are in a rescue situation.

Another program is EPIC Lens which teaches youth to be more aware of their emotions and how to deal with those emotions and make positive decisions. Instead of dogs, photography is the medium that is used to build rapport with young people and help them develop a skill.

“So with EPIC Lens we work with different groups of young people and allow them to take photographs,” Wood said. “We work through a series of lessons that culminates in a show where they can display their work and talk about the photos that they’ve taken. Recently, we’ve been highlighting some of their photographs on billboards.”

EPIC also offers parenting classes available to anybody. They supervise visitation with children and parents involved in the child welfare or court system so children can see family on a regular basis safely.

Most of the funding to operate EPIC comes from grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act (STOP Act) grant and Strategic Prevention Framework – Partnerships for Success program (Short Title: SPF-PFS) grant). They also receive some funding from the United Way of Southeast Missouri and from donors who support fundraisers throughout the year.

One fundraiser the group has coming up is on New Year’s Eve is the 8th annual EPIC Glow 5K.

“It is a fundraiser for EPIC, but we also just love the event because it’s a way to promote positive healthy activities on a holiday that’s not always known necessarily for people engaging in positive healthy activities,” Wood said. “We get lots of all different kinds of people from little children to older adults, families and individuals. It’s just a great community event!”

The 5K race begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 31. Runners and walkers are encouraged to wear glow items that will show up in the dark. Registration is open and costs $25. Show up at the Osage Centre to run or walk the 5K on Friday, Dec 31 at 6 p.m. The trail will be lined with glow items. Bags will be stuffed with goodies including glow items. Participants are encouraged to wear more glow items.

Tap here to register for the 8th annual EPIC Glow 5K.

Those interested in getting involved with EPIC as a volunteer, can email pals@epicprevention.org or call or text Shelly Wood at 573-837-9352. Tap here to learn more about EPIC.

EPIC is located at 210 North Sprigg Street in Cape Girardeau.


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