GREENVILLE - For more than two decades, DrugFree Greenville has served on the front lines in the battle against substance abuse through continuous prevention and awareness campaigns, and a great deal of community support.
The organization celebrates 25 years Thursday, and says goodbye to longtime Executive Director Sharon Kroncke.
She’ll be the first to tell you the drug problem still exists locally. But Kroncke knows that countless lives have been changed for the better through the work of DrugFree Greenville.
“Doing drug prevention is a little bit like squeezing on a water balloon. You squeeze on one part and then it pops out in another place… It’s a process of staying with the situation,” Kroncke says.
That process started with an attempt to obtain grant funding in the late 1980s, which was unsuccessful. But through the effort, community support was generated, and turned out to be the best way to obtain the dollars needed to implement drug prevention methods.
“By staying poor, so to speak, it means that in-kind donations and volunteer involvement is absolutely essential. We could not operate without it. It would be absolutely impossible for us to do what we do without it because we don’t have a lot of dollars.”
Through programs like the annual spring Walkathon, which attracts roughly 2,000 people each year, Red Ribbon Month in October and the Heroes Program, featuring playing cards with the faces of first responders and a chance for children to meet them; the investment grew, and so did the level of contributions. One of the bigger fundraising initiatives is Walkopoply, which consists of sign sponsors ahead of the Walkathon.
According to Kroncke, over the years the questions changed and interest in solving the problem, rather than denying it, did as well. The struggles, however, appear to remain the same. She says it’s about how a person perceives them self and how they connect to the community.
“How do I feel about myself? Do I have the resiliency to make good choices within my peer group, whether it’s the kids at school that I go to school with or the young adults that I hang out with?... Am I needed [in my community]?”
Kroncke hopes the community is helping to give that sense of belonging.
The executive director will hand the torch to its new leader, Bonita Malone, who has served alongside Kroncke at DrugFree Greenville for many years in a number of capacities.
Tonight’s open house to honor both Kroncke and the organization's 25 years of service is from 6-8 p.m. at Wesley United Methodist Church, 5302 U.S. Highway 69 Business.