The $10,000 question

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Members of last year’s Venture Philanthropy Club helped to curb the abuse of prescription drugs in Licking County. From left: professor and club advisor Fadhel Kaboub, Zack Goldman ’11, Ellie Thompson ’11, Peter Hurford ’14, Josh Goldman ’14, Corey Ackerman ’11, Mary Kimberly ’11, Lydia Boote ’11, and Rachel Mattingly ’11.

The leading cause of accidental death in Ohio is prescription drug abuse. The incident rate is higher than automobile accidents, the leading accidental killer in the United States. And the thing about the disease is the ease with which an abuser can pick his poison. Often, it’s as easy as opening the medicine cabinet.

These statistics troubled members of Denison’s Venture Philanthropy Club (VPC). Their mission was to answer what they call “the $10,000 question,” a question the student club members must ask at the start of the school year: If you had $10,000 to spend in order to help others, how would you spend it?

After soliciting proposals, club members visited the sites of the Licking County organizations that had submitted them, interviewed organization leaders, and decided where they—and the club’s annual grant—could make the most impact. Last year, the answer was to team with Pathways of Central Ohio, a social service agency serving Licking and Knox counties, to help launch a program to collect prescription drugs in a safe and secure way. Club members helped to raise awareness, provided educational programming, and established a drug abuse task force with Pathways. They also cut the check that bought the collection bins that are being placed in local police stations this fall, as well as the incinerator that would do away with the drugs for good.

VPC started three years ago when David Kuhns ’68 challenged Denison students to organize the club and then provided the money to make it work (What began as a $5,000 annual grant was just increased to $10,000). The idea was that every year students would take an active part in the community by supporting one Licking County organization with funding and at least 200 hours of service. “It ties students to the community,” says Josh Goldman ’14, chair of VPC, “and it creates positive change.”

Members of VPC will share their story with alumni and parents this Saturday during Big Red Weekend when they present: “The 10K Question: How the Denison Community is Pioneering a Model for Student Development and Social Change.”

And as soon as they’re done with their presentation, they’ll have to get right back to work, because it’s now time to answer next year’s “$10,000 question.”

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