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Van Wyck plans candlelight vigil

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By Emily Pollok

Members of the Van Wyck community are reeling since the nation’s drug crisis has invaded their small town.
Since January, four young people from the rural town have died from drug and alcohol-related causes, said local resident Janice Witherspoon last week.
Witherspoon and several other members of the community have organized a candlelight vigil for Thursday evening to address the tragic deaths and to raise awareness about the epidemic.
“We are hoping this will bring our community together and make us stronger,” Witherspoon said. “The Van Wyck community is anguished by the loss of these young people, and the contributions they could have made for future generations. The alcohol and drug crisis must be addressed at the local level.”
According to Witherspoon, the ages of the four who died ranged from 18 to 31.
The Van Wyck resident said she hopes the event will show the town’s young people that they are supported and can turn to their community for help.
“We want it to stop because we want them here for the future,” she said. “We just don’t want there to be another victim.”
The candlelight vigil will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 6, at the Van Wyck Community Center, and several town council members will be attending.
VW Mayor Sean Corcoran described the deaths as “a true loss for the community,” and said he hopes the vigil will draw attention to the issue and make people aware of the resources available for those who need help.
“The losses are tragic,” Corcoran said, noting that it is characteristic of the people of Van Wyck to unite in the face of a tragedy. “It’s great that we’re all coming together.”
Although the mayor will be unable to attend the vigil due to a prior commitment, several council members will be there.
Councilman Richard Vaughan said it is important to draw attention to an issue that is happening everywhere, not just in Van Wyck.
“I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “The community needs it, the country needs it – everybody needs it. It affects everybody. It’s in every community and every town.”

Follow Emily Pollok on Twitter @PollokEmily or contact her at (803) 283-1155.