Sixteen people sat in a circle in the darkened room, each engrossed in the images on the flickering video monitor.
On screen, a representative of the Atlanta-based Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education lectured about children and drug use.
If there's a war on drugs, this was basic training.
The "soldiers" were the first members of the Partnership for a Drug-Free West County to receive the intensive training from PRIDE instructors. When completed, the trainees will teach parent-to-parent seminars, offering methods for keeping their children free of drugs.
The seminar was staged in the sales office building of Odenton's Seven Oaks community being built by Halle Enterprises. The Silver Spring-based builder of the 4,400-home project donated $7,000 to PDFWC for the training, in addition to providing the meeting place.
In an area adjoining the conference room, a pile of empty pizza boxes and soda cans attested to the long hours the group had put in, but none of the PDFWC volunteers nor their "master facilitators" seemed to mind spending 16 intense hours spread over two days.
"We must stop the Russian roulette of drugs," said Ira Ollie, PDFWC member and president of the Meade High School PTA, giving voice to the concern that brought the anti-drug group together a year ago.
PRIDE's approach is to establish trust and accountability within families by setting appropriate standards and consequences for children.
PDFWC hopes to join with the Partners for a Drug-Free Annapolis and a Severna Park anti-drug group to present a united front against drugs in the county. All three organizations subscribe to the PRIDE program and approach.
"The best way to really eliminate drug use is to really be a parent," said Betsie Russell, PDFWC president. Russell, land acquisition director for Halle, said parents must reclaim the responsibility of raising their children that they have unfairly foisted upon teachers.
"Parents have to go back to being parents," she added, pointing out that most drug use occurs after school hours, when children are in their parents control.
With an emphasis on cooperation between parents and teachers, members of the West County group were shown videotapes and exercises designed to teach them how to teach other parents how to prevent and detect drug abuse by their children, and how to intervene when abuse occurs.
Each of the 16 attendees will become "facilitators," who will each teach two groups of 16 parents during the next year. Russell stressed that facilitators are not trained as drug counselors, a misconception she said that often frightens people away from the parent-to-parent approach.
Russell's group has two goals: training parents to raise drug-free children and increasing the parents' respect for teachers. Members of the anti-drug group said that people have been too concerned with placing blame -- doing little to alleviate the true problem.
"In America, we do more reacting than acting," Darius Stanton, a coordinator for the Anne Arundel County Drug and Alcohol Program told the group.
"I don't see West County as any different from Crofton, which has gotten all the press this year," she said, referring to recent drug arrests there.
"It's a county problem and a national problem."
The Partnership for a Drug-Free West County will meet 6 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Seven Oaks sales office, Blue Water Boulevard, Odenton. For more information on the group, call Betsie Russell at Halle Enterprises at (301) 495-1520.