PEC employee founds local organization for drug-free teens
Loss of son to addiction inspires a passion to prevent similar tragedies in her community
PEC Ethics and Compliance Officer Janet Christiansen stands at the grave of her son, Caleb, who died of an accidental drug overdose in December 2011. Near the grave marker lie a few green wristbands branded “btxjourney.net.” They represent help and hope — themes Christiansen presents to local teens battling drug abuse through her organization, Join the Journey.
Christiansen says her deepest regret is not being able to rescue her son, but she has channeled her grief into a drive to educate local families and help prevent tragedies like Caleb’s. Through her organization, she has encouraged her community in Burnet, as well as the Llano, Fredericksburg and Blanco areas, to “join the journey” in creating drug-free communities. She believes local problems require local solutions.
“I felt ill-equipped to get [Caleb] help, to understand the severity of the problem, to know where resources were,” Christiansen said. “I felt that I probably wasn’t the only parent who lacked this knowledge.”
Within a year of her son’s death, Christiansen had created a website for her organization and had reached out to community leaders, sharing her cause with Chad Nelson (husband of PEC Senior Electrical Distribution Planner Annabel Nelson) as well as a Burnet school superintendent, county judge, district attorney, police, probation officers, clergy and business owners — anyone who would listen. The community answered the call. Burnet Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent (BCISD) Keith McBurnett even co-chairs Join the Journey.
“I shared Caleb and my story with the high school a couple of weeks ago at the now annual Truth About Drugs event and said, ‘Here’s the truth. My son was sitting in those chairs years ago expecting a bright future and now he’s gone,'” Christiansen said. “After I spoke from my heart, many of them came up to hug me, and I realized, ‘OK, it’s impacting them. It’s real, and it can happen to anyone.'”
In 2013, Join the Journey and BCISD created a forum asking the Burnet community to pledge to be drug free. The event generated good community and media response and opened the door for Christiansen to create additional drug education programs for Hill Country youth. She went on to create a partnership with state agency Bluebonnet Trails Community Services.
“One day can make a difference in the rest of that child’s youth, and it can change the path they are on,” Christiansen said. “That’s why we are getting them and their communities involved in numerous programs through various efforts.”
In September, Blanco received a drug-free grant to fund a community-based coalition to prevent youth substance abuse. Twelve parts of the community were selected to represent the cause on the coalition, including PEC as a representative of local business. Because of Christiansen’s championing of this cause, she was selected to represent the cooperative.
PEC Regional Member Services Manager Tim Nance also serves on the coalition as a representative of Blanco Independent School District due to his position on the board. He knew Christiansen’s son Caleb and has worked with Janet for several years, both at the cooperative and in the community.
“Watching Janet go through what she went through and seeing how she stepped up to the plate, it just makes me think, ‘Wow, could I even do that?'” Nance said. “For her to give like this after losing what she’s lost, it makes me so proud of her giving back to others in Caleb’s name.”
Christiansen has inspired Nance to become more involved in the cause. Like her, he believes the more they talk about drug abuse in the Hill Country, the more they will be able to eradicate it.
“Janet’s going to leave a legacy behind,” Nance said, “and she’s going to change, and has changed, the lives of kids she doesn’t even know.”
For more information about Join the Journey, visit btxjourney.net.