Concerned residents plan to place signs and banners throughout Canal Winchester as part of a statewide effort to curb underage drinking parties during high school prom and graduation season.

Concerned residents plan to place signs and banners throughout Canal Winchester as part of a statewide effort to curb underage drinking parties during high school prom and graduation season.

These residents call themselves the Canal Winchester Youth Support Team. Their goal is "to help every youth in Canal Winchester to be healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually."

Team members have joined a statewide campaign called Parents Who Host, Lose the Most.

The Rev. David Long-Higgins of David's United Church of Christ said the team was organized last October as a result of two deaths related to drug and alcohol abuse last year in the village.

"Honestly, that brought into very quick awareness the need to look into drug and alcohol abuse," Long-Higgins said. "It's more than just drugs and alcohol; it's the overall health of our kids."

According to a statement from Derek Longmeier, a project director with the Drug-Free Action Alliance, the Parents Who Host Lose the Most campaign focuses on educating parents about the legal ramifications as well as health and safety risks of serving alcohol to teens.

Under Ohio law, furnishing alcohol to a minor is a first-degree misdemeanor. The maximum penalty is six months in jail, a fine of $1,000 or both. Private persons also can file suit against those furnishing the alcohol to minors for injuries that result from drinking on a host's premises.

Sgt. K.C. Kern of the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office said deputies bust an average of one underage drinking party each year in Canal Winchester, but he believes there is more than one party annually where underage drinking occurs in the village.

The parties normally happen in the summer, he said. Although they can occur around prom and graduation time, "sometimes there's no rhyme or reason," he said.

Kern is a member of the youth support team.

"What we're trying to do is educate and make the public aware of what's going on," he said.

The Rev. Dr. Richard Boone of Faith United Methodist Church said Canal Winchester area youths receive little education from Canal Winchester schools.

"It's not because (district officials) don't like it," he said. "They can't fund it."

The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program provides substance abuse education in some Ohio schools but the Canal Winchester district has no such program.

Boone said the district would need $80,000 annually to hire a DARE officer. He said raising enough money through the youth support team to eventually hire a DARE officer is a "doable goal."

ebrooks@thisweeknews.com