Carrying the Message Statewide

Sep 30, 2019

A groundbreaking Public Outreach project, funded by a generous Trust of almost $20,000, kicked off right after the Pennsylvania Area Assembly in August.

Barbara G., chair of the Pennsylvania Area World Service Committee, said, “The gift of this generous Al-Anon member will allow the Pennsylvania Area to carry the message of recovery far and wide throughout the entire Area to all those who are still suffering from the impact of the disease of alcoholism in a relative or friend.”

The innovative Al-Anon push has three major elements:

  • Some 1,630 mailings to professionals, sent the week after the Assembly.
  • Al-Anon giveaways at health fairs, and other special events.
  • Online TV ads―totaling 150,000 a month―on stations that are part of the Hearst Broadcasting Corp. The ads will run from November through January 2020.

These affiliates include NBC, FOX News, ESPN Net, CNN, and MSNBC. When someone from Pennsylvania clicks on one of those stations online, an ad for Al-Anon will pop up either on the top or bottom of the computer screen. For each of the three months, 150,000 pop-up ads (called impressions) will be displayed across Pennsylvania.

District representatives first learned about the bequest at the February 2019 PA Area World Service Committee meeting. The Area’s Finance Committee recommended that the bulk of the money be used for public outreach since Al-Anon’s primary purpose is to reach families of alcoholics. The DRs voted unanimously to do that.

The Area’s Public Outreach Committee then surveyed representatives of each district, as well as Alateen and the Al-Anon Information Service groups for the Delaware Valley and Pittsburgh. Representatives were asked what types of public outreach would work best in their specific regions, which range from sparsely populated counties to the inner cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

The response rate was 42 percent, according to Wendy F., the Area’s Public Outreach Coordinator.

Based on district-specific responses, her committee developed a letter to  professionals and a packet of information including a copy of Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism, various pamphlets and a tear tab-sheet for hanging in the recipient’s location.

At Assembly, Wendy observed that a hand-addressed envelope has a better chance of being opened than a computer-generated address. She asked for help. 

many hands

make light work

That weekend, volunteers stuffed some 1,630 large manilla envelopes with the letters and packets, and wrote addresses to police chiefs, magistrates, lawyers, judges, therapists, churches, middle and high schools, colleges and universities, and drug and alcohol treatment centers.

The service response thrilled Wendy. In an August 23 email, she wrote:

“Just want to thank everyone again for all the help with our Public Outreach project at Assembly! Many hands make light work and you and your groups excelled!”

The envelopes were stamped rather than metered — again, so they would be more likely to be opened — at a cost of $1.45 per envelope.

if one person

is attracted

to the program


of our efforts,

it is worth it

Responses have started to come in. 

In her Aug. 23 email, Wendy also wrote:

 “I just wanted you to know that I received the first call today from the chief of police of White Hall Borough (in Allegheny County) looking to partner with us and get more information for their community!!

“I always say if one person is attracted to the program because of our efforts, it is worth it. And five days after Assembly, we got our first inquiry! HP is good all the time!”

Along with the mailings to professionals and the online impressions, the third aspect of the outreach project involves special events and health fairs. 

Wendy said District 21 (the Harrisburg area) wanted to give away stress balls at events and health fairs where there are Al-Anon/Alateen booths. The Public Outreach Committee purchased about 600 stress balls (300 smiley faces and 300 elephants) and distributed some to District 21 and at the recent state AA convention. Some also came to the Al-Anon Assembly. The elephants symbolize “the elephant in the room” and are “too darn cute,” Wendy said by phone. She added, “I’m at UPS practically every day” mailing out stress balls.

There are other individual-district, special-event projects, such as posters for communities, advertising on restaurant placemats, and, in the Philadelphia area, advertising in movie theaters during the upcoming holidays.

if you have ideas …

please let your

DR know

As Wendy said at Assembly, “We’re looking to do things that benefit as many people/areas as possible. If you have ideas or anything else to input to this initiative, please let your DR know so they can pass it on to me or a member of the Public Outreach Committee.” 

She noted that there was a lot of interest during the 2018 Assembly in the Public Service Announcements (PSAs) that are sent out each year and played by radio and TV stations. Those interested in PSAs are asked to contact her.

“There’s still money” available for public outreach, she said, “We’ll consider it.”

She called the late Al-Anon member’s bequest “an amazing blessing to have the money … to really do something significant in the community.”

Wendy can be reached at [email protected].