Safe Communities shares message

Safe Communities shares message

Image Credit: Dave Mast

The annual Wayne Holmes Safe Communities Holiday Happy Hour showcased nonalcoholic drinks created by several businesses and organizations.

While some drinks were enjoyed at the Dec. 7 event that took place at Millersburg United Methodist Church, the event also carried a more important message. Since its inception years ago, the event has been a chance for local law-enforcement agencies and Safe Communities to share one simple message for the holidays: don’t drink and get behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Lt. Todd Roberts of Ohio State Highway Patrol in Wooster said the event was made for the holiday season to help promote the concept of making smart decisions when they attend parties and functions that might feature alcohol.

“This time of the year features a lot of different gatherings, and while we are promoting ways to have fun without alcohol, we know that many parties will have alcohol involved,” Roberts said. “We are trying to get people to make good choices if they do drink. Make a plan ahead of time. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with drinking if you come up with a plan ahead of time on getting home safely without crawling behind the wheel and driving.”

Roberts said in 2021 there have been 16 fatal crashes in Wayne County and eight in Holmes County, and half of those crashes revolved around alcohol and drug use. He added drunk driving is the topic of the month at OSHP, and the department will crack down on drunk drivers this holiday season, so patrol units will be out in force.

Holmes County deputy Christopher Schonauer reiterated that message, stating how important it is to think about other people during the holidays when it comes to drinking and driving.

“This is a time of the year where people can often imbibe a little more than they should, and we want to remind people to make smart choices,” Schonauer said. “An event like this proves people can celebrate and gather without alcohol and have fun, but if people are at a party where alcohol is served, simply give someone your keys and get a ride home. It is a simple decision to make, and that one act can prevent some awful consequences because one alcohol-related accident is one too many.”

The Safe Communities nonalcohol event was sponsored by Commercial & Savings Bank and took place at Millersburg United Methodist Church with six teams including groups from CSB, Ohio State Highway Patrol, AloNovus Inc., OneEighty, Millersburg Creamery and Holmes County Sheriff’s Department. In addition, judges Roger Estill, Pam Semenya and Gary Gallion tested out each of the drinks.

CSB has played a big role in this event for years as the main sponsor, and Melanie Raber of CSB said her company understands the message Safe Communities hopes to present during the event.

“The message of making smart decisions is so critical, especially during the holidays, and we want people to know they can still have fun without alcohol,” Raber said.

As for the evening itself, Raber said she enjoys the décor and having a chance to make everyone smile. The CSB crew did that by dressing up as the eight maids a-milking from the “Twelve Days of Christmas” theme, a crew that included a member dressed up as a cow. She said they enjoy coming up with creative themes they know will bring smiles to those in attendance.

“We love getting the chance to interact with community members who get to see us in a little different light,” Raber said.

In addition to the drinks, snacks and fellowship, the West Holmes Chamber Choir was on hand to add plenty of Christmas carols to the festivities.

Coming off a COVID year that saw the event reduced to presenting the drinks online, this year marked a return to the regular presentation that saw people gathering together to celebrate the event. However, the numbers remained low in both teams and attendance as the residual effects of COVID and another issue kept numbers down.

“Because of COVID and the staffing issues many places are facing right now, it has been a tough year. It seems like it is going to take a year for us to get back to full strength,” organizer Beth McCready of Anazao and Safe Communities said. “Even so, I think everyone here had a great time, and the teams were really great, and we greatly appreciate the sponsors.”

Several other area businesses donated gift baskets that went into a raffle that raised money to present to the family of John Blaine Palmer IV, age 18, who passed away Sept. 11, 2021, following a single car accident. Those donors included Snow Trails, Subway in Millersburg, Walnut Creek Cheese, Guggisberg Cheese, Miller’s Creamery, Main Street Fudge & Popcorn Company, Pomerene Hospital and East of Chicago Pizza.

Anyone wishing to have the nonalcoholic drink recipes mailed to them may get them by emailing McCready at

The Holiday Happy Hour advocate is Anazao Community Partners and Holmes County Safe Communities.