By Lyra Bordelon
Lewisburg’s 13th annual D.A.R.E. To Cruz Car Show will not be held this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many changes are happening in our community to help control the COVID-19 outbreak,” explained Sgt. Jonathan Hughes, the show’s coordinator and the department’s D.A.R.E. instructor. “These changes affect us all, and I know that your family is working hard to follow the recommendations and guidelines to keep us all safe. As your D.A.R.E. officer, I teach the D.A.R.E. curriculum to support decision-making skills for safe and healthy living. D.A.R.E. helps provide our students with the knowledge and skills to handle the risks they face in life. Right now, it is important to remember that we all have the skills necessary to make good decisions.”
Over the past 12 years the car show has brought out a huge crowd to see restored and like-new vehicles from the past 100 years. The proceeds from the show go to support the local Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program for Lewisburg Elementary School fifth grades. The show has not been permanently canceled, but postponed to next year while the possibility of viral infection looms large.
“Within the last two weeks, just looking at what’s going on, not only in the state but nationwide and a lot of the other specials and stuff that have been canceled,” Hughes said. “We just figured it would be safer for this year just to postpone it and continue on the tradition next year.”
Originally begun by former Lewisburg Police Chief Tim Stover, Hughes took over after Stover’s retirement in 2019. He graduated from the D.A.R.E. America teaching program in Wheeling in January and Hughes began teaching fifth grade students about prescription drug (Rx) abuse, the growing methamphetamine problem, over-the-counter abuse, the availability and accessibility and marijuana use and abuse. The future of the program is still uncertain, with Greenbrier County schools looking to reopen this year with guidelines on combating COVID-19.
“I’m working with the schools to follow their guidelines and figure out what they want to do moving forward,” Hughes said. “That’s where we’re at right now. … I think this is new to everyone and we’re all just trying to figure out what’s best and how to best implement the program.”
When taking over the program in January, Hughes explained he wanted to increase the D.A.R.E. presence outside the classroom, a goal which has taken on new significance with the massively increased online learning this year.
“My goal for the program was to try and reach children outside of the classroom. I’ve been working on trying to find the funding for a DARE vehicle, a patrol vehicle [that] has some DARE graphics on it so when I’m patrolling the neighborhood or doing my daily activities at work, kids that are playing … or see me at the gas station, it’s a reminder of the program. It’s a way to reach them out of the classroom and I feel like that’s more important now than ever with the pandemic that we’re dealing with.”
The canceled car show will have an impact on the funds available for the program – those interested in donating to the program can do so by contacting Kelly Gwinn at the Lewisburg Police Station at 304-645-1626. In addition, Hughes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We appreciate everyone’s understanding and continued support through what all is going on,” Hughes said. “I think we’re just like anyone else, holding pattern, and hoping and praying all this stuff will all go away. … We’ve always had a lot of support from the community and businesses in the Lewisburg area. We’ve been very fortunate.”