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Operation PAR gets $2-million in grants

A local drug-prevention and treatment agency, Operation PAR, received nearly $2-million Friday, including a $200,000 grant from the Department of Justice.

Deputy Attorney General George Terwilliger presented the check to Operation PAR, or Parental Awareness and Responsibility, in a ceremony at PAR Village in Largo. Operation PAR will use the money to expand its programing to provide training for the government's Operation Weed and Seed program.

Operation Weed and Seed combines the efforts of law enforcement and social service agencies to combat violent crime and drug use through community policing and neighborhood input. It was started by the Department of Justice in 1991. Operation PAR, based in St. Petersburg, is among the largest drug-abuse agencies in the Southeast.

"Operation PAR was selected by the federal government to be a model agency for Weed and Seed sites," said Operation PAR spokesman Mark Wilson.

Wilson said the agency was selected because it already has programs in place similar to the Weed and Seed programs.

There are 20 Weed and Seed programs across the country, but Operation PAR won't know if it will receive funding to become an official Weed and Seed program until next month, Wilson said.

Terwilliger said the program "weeds out the element of crime, criminals and gang members from neighborhoods." Then the neighborhoods are "seeded" through continued community policing and a variety of programs, including job training and drug prevention.

"This $200,000 grant will allow us to use the expertise of the people who've been involved in making this program a success," Terwilliger said. "We want this program to show others that they don't have to reinvent the wheel and that these problems are not insurmountable."

U.S. Rep. C. W. Bill Young, R-Indian Rocks Beach, announced that Operation PAR will receive $1.7-million from the state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services and the Department of Justice. PAR Village will receive $973,000 and the PAR Child Abandonment program will receive more than $550,000, all from HRS. A program to detect drug abuse by hair analysis will receive $187,407 from the Department of Justice.

"We really need this," said Ray Kinne, a resident of PAR village. "This money will help people in jails, people on drugs to lead a better way of life. It will also help the children, and they're the most important people here."

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