Anti-drug abuse organization lives by the motto ‘We Not Me’
The Atascadero Chamber of Commerce has recognized LIGHTHOUSE Atascadero as the Community Organization of the Year for 2023. LIGHTHOUSE Atascadero is a unique and established local grassroots organization that began in 2011, offering the community valuable drug education, prevention, and intervention services.
“I think it [the award] is a reminder to us of our motto; it’s kind of an unofficial thing, but it’s ‘We Not Me.’ LIGHTHOUSE is the ‘we’ of Atascadero,” LIGHTHOUSE Executive Director Donn Clickard shared.
LIGHTHOUSE originally started out as a committee of the Atascadero Greyhound Foundation (which is still its own organization today) in 1994 with the goal of building an all-weather track at the high school. It wasn’t until 2011, when four of Atascadero’s young adults passed away due to their drug use, that LIGHTHOUSE as we now know it was born out of the tragedy.
It all started with a single program featuring counseling for anyone struggling with substance abuse at Del Rio Continuation High School. Now, LIGHTHOUSE has close to 10 programs and counting, as well as many ways they interact with the community.
“We started with that one counseling program that was actually for 11 recovering heroin addicts that had been students at Atascadero High School,” added Donn about the initial LIGHTHOUSE program.
Chairperson Lori Bagby became a part of LIGHTHOUSE after losing her son to an overdose, and then three months later attending the funeral of one of his best friends. The two boys had been friends since pre-school days, and their deaths brought LIGHTHOUSE into Lori’s life. Though she didn’t know how she would help LIGHTHOUSE with its mission, she knew she wanted to be a part of what they were doing in the community and help other families in a position she knew all too well. That drive morphed into her becoming Chairperson of the LIGHTHOUSE Committee.
“Now so much of what we do, not all of it, is the prevention and the healthy activities and the good mentors and people in the kid’s lives,” said Lori.
LIGHTHOUSE also interacts with Reality Tour every year to help parents and children in Atascadero learn about the hazards of drug use in the community. The event is for youth who are in sixth grade through the end of high school.
“You can see with Reality Tour how involved the whole community is,” Donn stated. “Usually, it’s ask, and you receive. Lots of people in the community know about LIGHTHOUSE, and so our awareness piece, awareness, prevention, intervention, and education are the parts of it, and so the awareness piece a lot of times is, it might be a newsletter, it might be what you’re going to do with writing your story, where the awareness is being created because everybody doesn’t know about it.”
Not only is LIGHTHOUSE helping spread drug awareness and aiding the community in prevention, intervention, and education through Reality Tour, it also reaches into the community with other yearly events. Those events include the LIGHTHOUSE 5K Fun Run, the All Comers Track Meet, and the Wayne Cooper Memorial Golf Tournament.
“Someone might say, ‘well, how is an All Comers Track Meet or a LIGHTHOUSE after-school program, how are those drug prevention?'” Donn added. “Well, they are what we call constructive use of leisure time. And if you have constructive use of leisure time, your adolescent population, if you fill that time with constructive things, then you are going to lessen the opportunity for them to do drugs.”
There’s many other ways that LIGHTHOUSE provides education and help to the people of Atascadero on a more consistent basis, with the LIGHTHOUSE Coffee Company run by students, the LIGHTHOUSE Atascadero Mentoring Program (LAMP), the LIGHTHOUSE Atascadero Support, Education and Resources (LASER), LIGHTHOUSE After School, LIGHTHOUSE Counseling at the Paloma Creek Wellness Center, Youth Development, and more.
“Each thing that we’ve added has been the result of a need that was felt in the community for whatever the program might be,” added Donn.
He also stated that they’ve added a support system for adults, complete with a library and a series of programs and resources to recommend to anyone who isn’t a youth in the community.
“I feel very lucky that I get to be a part of it and make a difference for other people,” Lori said.
Donn added that he’s grateful to the current superintendent Tom Butler and the rest of the administrative team in the Atascadero Unified School District for their full support and the work they do alongside LIGHTHOUSE, as well as all the other community organizations and nonprofits that lend time and resources to the program.
“It isn’t about any one of us; it’s about all of us; it’s about a whole town,” Donn concluded.
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