Column: Strong families make strong communities |

Column: Strong families make strong communities

Eloisa Duarte
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The increasing concern about drugs and interest in having more information motivated a group of parents to invite Carbondale Police Officer Michael Zimmerman to discuss the dangers lurking for students in our communities. The legalization of marijuana in Colorado made this an especially relevant topic.

It was very interesting to look at the children and young adults interested in Zimmerman’ talk and asking questions about the myths and realities of drugs. We ought to applaud the interest shown by parents in learning to detect a threat to their families and keeping them away from this monster.

Zimmerman is also the officer assigned to the schools and it is clear that these families, especially children, feel a strong connection, trust and respect toward him, which is important in crime prevention.

For two hours the officer strongly emphasized the importance of communication in a family, especially when the presence of drugs is suspected. He urged parents not to ignore odd and repetitive behaviors, especially when it seems that things are not going well.

The positive effects of this meeting made me think about the role of the family in our community, to live this moment where parents and children clarified their doubts and expressed their concerns in union and harmony. It convinced me that the family is also a powerful ecosystem of hope.

The family provides special shielding not only against drugs, but against other social problems such as child sexual abuse, depression, bullying, domestic violence and other everyday attacks impossible to fight off in a divided trench.

Connected families build up strong communities so the obvious question is: What can we do to strengthen our families?

The answer should be easy. A strong family requires a strong foundation (parents), quality time, trust, respect, support and all that derives from this.

However it is difficult because we do not always know what to do. Other factors such as overwork, physical and mental illnesses, divorce and drugs are obstacles in working toward building a strong family unit.

Caring for a family is hard work that takes time, diligence, effort, attention and tolerance. It involves the fundamental values of human beings, including respect, honesty, forgiveness, gratitude, loyalty, education and love.

The power of the family is an issue that somehow is always present; Father Bert Chilson of the Catholic Church expressed during a service in Glenwood that the greatest support you can receive in times of grief comes from the family.

The spiritual leaders of our community also give significance and recognition to the family. Doug Self, who used to be the pastor of the Church at Carbondale, now called The Orchard, encouraged my husband and me to take care of the “heart of the family.” Pastor Jim Tarr of Christ Community Church leads an important and powerful community project to help families in the valley.

The family is a stronghold that gives shelter and strength to its members. The only way to overcome adversity is the family unit. “Divide and conquer” is not a useful strategy when it comes to family.

Officer Zimmerman remarked several times that family care and communication is fundamental when it comes to warding off drugs and other hazards.

Personally, to have and maintain a family has not been easy. My husband and I have faced many battles. But we have persevered because in our hearts we hold the conviction that a united family is stronger.

These families came together to learn about drugs and their adverse effects, and they learned about the power to educate healthy children capable of facing adversity, and to be builders of stronger communities.

And truth be told, as my father used to say, strong families make strong communities. The unbreakable bond of a family magnifies the chances of success. It is never too late to start building or rebuilding your family.

Against any and all adversity, it is always important to remember that your family is your best shield.

Eloisa Duarte, a volunteer in many community projects, writes this column monthly. She has a degree in communications and a passion for education. Reach her at

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