OLYMPIA -- On June 25th, fifty-five residents of Rochester gathered at Great Wolf Lodge to celebrate the accomplishments of the Weed and Seed program over the past six years. Weed and Seed is a federally funded program designed to help communities that are experiencing a severe impact from the manufacture, sale or consumption of illegal drugs. Also attending the celebration event were County Commissioner Diane Oberquell, County Sheriff Dan Kimball, County Prosecutor Ed Holm, members of the Chehalis Tribe and representatives from several non-profit service agencies.
Since it's inception in 2001, the Weed and Seed program has given the Rochester community the tools to reduce the number of methamphetamine labs in the area. In 2003, there were 15 methamphetamine labs that were closed by the Thurston County Sheriff's Department. In 2007, there were no methamphetamine labs found by law enforcement in the Rochester area. In addition, the number of felony drug arrests in the Rochester area dropped from 37 in 2005 to 12 in 2007; a reduction of 67% in two years. There have also been several "stings" on local stores and bars which have significantly reduced the sale of tobacco and alcohol to minors in the area.
The program's second focus is to replace the impacts of illegal drugs with services, economic development and healthy choices for community members ("seed" activities).
In the past six years, the Rochester area has also seen an amazing growth in services for residents, particularly children and youth. The Rochester Community Center was founded and located in the old Rochester primary school, the Timberland Regional Library set up a library "kiosk" in the community center which is manned by volunteers, and a new Community Park Board has been established which has been installing a community park next to the Rochester Community Center. In addition, services for children and youth are now available on a much broader scale than in 2002, offered by the Rochester Organization for Families, Boys and Girls Clubs of Thurston County, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the Thurston County Parks Department and 4-H.
Those attending the Closing Conference of Rochester Weed and Seed praised the work that has been done. Most people attending did agree, however, that there is more work to be done to help Rochester residents deal with the impacts of rapid growth in the area and to become more organized as a community. Many individuals agreed to volunteer their personal time to help meet these new challenges.
For more information about how area residents can help, contact Donna Smith, 273-0707.