United Way Community Impact Award Finalist - Deputy Dale Thomas
Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Dale Thomas has been named one of five finalists for the 2019 United Way of Pickaway County Community Impact Award. Thomas was nominated and selected for the distinction as the result of a community-wide search launched this past June to identify and highlight members of the community going above and beyond to make Pickaway County a great place to live.
Thomas, now in his 23rd year with the Sheriff’s Office’s D.A.R.E. program, uses drug-prevention, education, team-building, and life skills to promote positive decision making among county youth in 5th and 7th grade in all four county schools - Circleville City, Logan Elm Local, Teays Valley Local, and Westfall Local.
For Thomas, the program’s outreach is two-fold as it keeps students informed and away from opiods, alcohol, and tobacco, but it also focuses on building approachable relationships with kids in law enforcement at an early age.
““When the D.A.R.E. program first started, the main benefit of it was uniformed officers in the classroom and bridging that gap because kids might be afraid of the police, said Thomas. That is what I try to keep up with is building relationships. “As the D.A.R.E. officer, I am never going to come to a school and arrest a kid. I am never going to do that. Even if I have a kid that gets caught with something and he is at the school then I am going to meet with the kid, but I will not be the one to take the kid off in handcuffs. The premise is that the kids are supposed to be able to come talk to me. They are supposed to be able to share stuff with me.
Through the program, Thomas has been a mainstay for multiple generations of county residents who have gone through the D.A.R.E. program making those impactful connections with law enforcement to develop positive relationships from an early age. Attend any 5th grade D.A.R.E. graduation and you can find a handful of former graduates now attending the ceremony to cheer on their children as they walk across the stage at program completion.
While the old program used to be on a 9-month cycle, the current version of the grant stretches to 12 months of drug prevention education. Accordingly, outside of school it is also not too uncommon for county residents to drive by a local park and see Thomas continuing to invest his time with youth in a game of pick-up hoops or tossing the football.
“What I like to do now is drive around the communities and go to the parks and if kids are out and playing….I will get out and throw the football or shoot some hoops. Now that I have Deputy Mike Blue with me (the canine), that is an easy attention getter. Then as we wrap up I will work the drug prevention into what we are doing.”
Using education, one of the four pillar components of the United Way of Pickaway County, as his tool, Thomas has left indelible impressions on county youth through drug prevention programming and relationship building on and off the clock.
The United Way of Pickaway County is proud to name Dale Thomas a 2019 Community Impact Award Finalist this fall. Thomas, along with the four other finalists, will attend the 2019 “United We Serve” Gala at the Pavilion at Orchard View of Stoutsville where they will be honored for their commitment to community outreach. Additionally, one winner will also be named that night as the result of a community vote on our website at pickuw.org.