RUSSELL COUNTY HEROES: Donita Lawless ‘key’ to Partners in Prevention
In Aug. 16 issue, Russell County News By Derek Aaron Russell County News Editor
Five years ago, Donita Lawless and others saw a need to develop a long-term strategy to reduce the abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in Russell County and out of that, the Russell County Partner’s in Prevention was born.
Lawless is the grants project director for Partners in Prevention, meaning she writes grants and secures state and federal funds for the prevention program, thus making her this week’s “Russell County Hero.”
“Donita is the key to the success of RCPIP,” said Tracy Aaron, the chairperson of RCPIP’s executive board.
“Donita is the pencil that connects all the dots for the community partners.”
“We’re all about prevention,” Lawless said. “That is our big thing.”
Lawless said the program’s goals were strictly community-based.
“Our energies are pretty much focused on Russell County and what we can do for our home,” she said.
Lawless said the program has made some tremendous strides in the past year in obtaining more community involvement.
“Five years ago when we started this most people didn’t even realize there was a substance issue in the county,” she said.
“That’s one of the things we try to do with our weekly articles (in the Times Journal) is to let people know what is going on with both local and national trends.”
Lawless said RCPIP’s target age group is grades 6-12 and both the Russell County Middle School and Russell County High Schools have drug-free student councils that are affiliated with Partners in Prevention.
“We’re not limited to that but that’s where we have to have our focus because of our grants,” she said. “We keep trying each year to expand to the younger kids.”
Lawless said she has been asked by several 6th graders in the county about eventually getting the drug-free student councils at each county elementary school.
“That is something I would like to see happen,” she said. “I guess it comes down to someone that would be willing to put the time in (to lead it).”
She said she hoped someone in the schools would eventually sponsor those.
“At the high school we have a real good core group that stays committed and is serious about it,” she said.
Ten to 12 students at the high school are active with the council while many more come to the meetings.
Lawless lauded Jackie Grider and Candi Campbell for their work with the middle school’s council.
That council has around 30 students actively involved.
Partners in Prevention also held a “very successful” youth retreat and leadership development outreach for the high school’s drug-free student council at the Lake Cumberland State Resort Park back in June.
The three-day retreat was funded through grant monies that Lawless was able to land for that purpose.
“The kids really worked hard in learning different leadership qualities and about data collection,” she said.
Tracy Aaron gives much of the credit to Lawless for how the prevention program has grown over the past several years.
“Her passion is an important element in what the RCPIP has accomplished over the past four year,” she said.
Partners in Prevention had grown steadily since its beginning and even has a home on the Internet at www.rcpip.org
“It tells a little bit about us and how you can reach us,” she said.
The site has numerous links and useful tips about substance prevention, intervention and treatment strategies.
Lawless, who has a bachelor’s degree in counseling, was one of the original three authors of this county’s chapter of the Kentucky Agency for Substance Abuse Policy in 2003.
Before Lawless took the job as grants project director, she worked 11 years as assistant director of the Russell County Youth Services Center.
Partners in Prevention, Inc. now operates on two grants, a Kentucky ASAP state grant, and a Drug-Free Communities (DFC) federal grant.
They hold their monthly meetings the fourth Friday of each month at 11 a.m. at the Jamestown Christian Church Family Center.
Lawless urges all people to attend these important meetings.
On Sat., August 23, RCPIP will hold their “year-end” celebration at the Russell Springs City Park from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
She said there will be food and the swimming pool will be open as well.
Anyone wishing to attend should RSVP by Mon., August 18 by calling 270-343-6247 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
The Times Journal is a weekly newspaper issued on Thursdays. It was first published on October 13, 1949, by Andrew J. and Terry Norfleet.
P.O. Box 190
120 Wilson St.
Russell Springs KY 42642
Russell County News is a weekly newspaper issued on Saturdays, and is mailed free to every address in Russell County, Ky. It was first published on February 1, 1913.
404 Monument Square
Jamestown KY 42629