An ongoing partnership with the Lindsay Automotive Group recently yielded the donation of a new car to help the Pickerington Police Department promote drug-abuse prevention.
In 2013, the Pickerington Police Department and city officials were struggling to carve out $10,000 a year from their budgets to provide the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program that seeks to steer young people away from alcohol, drugs, tobacco and gangs.
Dusty Lindsay, a general manager with Lindsay Automotive Group, believed in the program, after his daughter, Isabella, experienced it in the Pickerington Local School District.
"We learned about it ourselves, and said, 'Man, we've got do something for our community so we don't lose that program for the kids,' " Lindsay said. "That's when they're impressionable, they're still learning right and wrong.
"We came to an agreement and we started donating DARE cars just for the awareness in the community and the awareness of the program. Since then, we've donated cars every two, three years."
On April 9, the company made its latest donation, a 2019 Honda Accord LX, to the Pickerington Police Department at the company's store at 5959 Scarborough Blvd., Columbus.
The new vehicle is valued at more than $26,000, and came customized with DARE and Pickerington police logos.
"We love it," said Pickerington police Chief Tod Cheney. "This one came out good.
"It can (be used for patrol), but this is mainly what our DARE officer uses to promote the DARE program. He takes this to our schools."
The car is equipped with an emergency light bar and is a marked police cruiser, per Ohio standards.
Cheney noted the donation also frees up an obligation the department would have to purchase one more cruiser.
"We are very appreciative of the way Lindsay Honda has treated us over the years with these vehicles," Cheney said. "This would be a cost to the city, the residents, to purchase a DARE car every few years.
"They provide this for free. They're from our area, they love the community and they love the DARE program."
Officer Brad Frost runs the department's DARE program, which is a voluntary, two-week class offered before school to students at the district's three middle schools.
"Primarily what we do is for fifth- and sixth-graders," Frost said. "From time to time, we'll go in and teach some of it in the high schools. The kids that want to sign up for it or the parents that want them to do it, they'll bring the kids in an hour before school each morning for a two-week period. At the end of that two weeks, we'll graduate each school."
This year, about 160 students from Diley, Harmon and Toll Gate middle schools completed the DARE program.
Frost said it's one of only two DARE programs – Lancaster is the other – offered at schools in Fairfield County. He said the DARE vehicle is the most visible way Pickerington police promote the program and its message.
"Everywhere I go, there's people that will see it and say, 'Oh, DARE, I didn't know that was still around,' " he said. "It's invaluable really, especially at a time where we've kind of grown numb to overdoses because they happen so often. I think the program's incredibly important because these are kids that, especially at that age, need to hear about (drugs).
"We're hearing the age of experimentation is starting at 10 or 11 years old," Frost said. "For us to be able to get in there and have a positive interaction with kids, and to be able to talk about this stuff openly with them, they can ask us questions instead of having to figure things out on their own.
"I think it really has a huge impact."
Steve Lindsay, another Lindsay Automotive Group general manager, said his company continues to donate cars to the Pickerington Police Department because the Lindsay family believes in the DARE program.
"The vehicle is a big part of DARE and how they promote DARE," Steve Lindsay said. "I think it's a good way to represent what DARE means to Pickerington and it's a resource that we have to be able to help out."