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CARE Team honors Druin

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

She watched, jaw dropped, as one of her staffers surprised her.

It took just a few seconds to realize what was going on.

“Over 15 years ago, one woman not only decided that she wanted to make a difference, but that she would,” Melissa Blankenship told attendees of the Henry County CARE Team meeting.

Through research, lobbying and grant writing, Nellie Druin “began building the foundation of the organization that would be known as the Henry County CARE Team,” Blankenship said.

While the organization has morphed in the 15 years since its creation, one constant remained, she added. And that constant is Druin.

“Nellie, please know that you have made a difference,” Blankenship said. “You have made a difference for thousands of families and children in Henry County.”

Druin, as is her wont, deflected the praise. “This is a wonderful county,” she said. “You can’t ever say that one person does that, you can’t say it. You look around, there are so many people.”

Despite her dedication to the organization, Druin said there have been times over the years when she considered not coming back, frustrated over programs not quite succeeding, or messages not being heard.

“But then, with a faithful staff… we would always come back,” she said.

As she has many times for the organization, Druin is working on grants that will keep the doors open and the programs going. “I want to see this agency continue long after I’m gone,” she said.

“We have a lot of work to do yet, and it takes a great team to do it.”

But the program’s funding is in question.

The CARE team was formed under a Drug Free Communities Grant, grants which can only be received for 10 years.

Five years ago, Druin said, she applied for a grant that set the CARE team up as a fiscal agent, enabling them to reach out in areas that needed funding. “We were not designed just to focus on a coalition, we can’t just operate like that,” she said.

Now Druin is applying for a new Drug Free Communities grant as a unique coalition — a requirement of the grant itself. And this time, she said, it’s the Youth Coalition, or YoCo, with the CARE team remaining as the Fiscal Agent.

“What’s unique about this coalition,” she said, “is the youth lead, and it is supported by the 12 required sectors.”

Druin told the meeting’s attendees that should the grant application be successful, “it’ll be five more years for these kids.”

Messages left for Druin for further comment about the CARE team’s funding and grant application process were not returned by press time.