Plank honored for 30 years with D.A.R.E. program


By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Sgt. Rick Busch, left, presents Officer Tom Plank with a plaque honoring his 30 years of service with the D.A.R.E. program. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

CAIRO — The town of Cairo honored Officer Tom Plank for three decades of service with the local D.A.R.E. program.

“We have a plaque for Tom Plank,” Town Councilman Michael Flaherty said at the July 11 meeting of the town council. “It’s for [his] 30 years of service with the D.A.R.E. program. We want to recognize his years of service.”

D.A.R.E. is a national program aimed at teaching students decision-making skills that will lead to safe and healthy living, according to the organization’s website.

“D.A.R.E. envisions a world in which students everywhere are empowered to respect others and choose to lead lives free from violence, substance abuse and other dangerous behaviors,” according to the organization.

Sgt. Rick Busch, officer-in-charge at the Town of Cairo Police Department, presented Plank with the plaque for his three decades of service to the program and to local children.

“Tom has spent countless hours of his own time, his own gas — you name it — to keep the D.A.R.E. program moving,” Busch said. “He had programs like D.A.R.E. Weekend, which was a weekend full of D.A.R.E. fun that didn’t cost the children anything.”

Plank’s work went beyond hosting and organizing the program’s events — he also did all the fundraising to cover the expenses.

“Tom raised all the money himself for the program,” Busch said.

Over the years, there was also a D.A.R.E. Day held in the town park every summer, among many other activities.

“Everything was completely free, off the money that Tom raised on his own time and his own dime,” Busch said. “I actually suggested a couple of times that Tom could put in for some reimbursement through the D.A.R.E. program and he would not do it. He just wouldn’t do it.”

Busch told Plank he could submit to the national program for reimbursement for his time working on special events like D.A.R.E. Day, but Plank refused to do that, as well.

“I told him he could put in for pay for the day because [he] was spending the whole day doing it and [he] raised all the money himself,” but Plank would not submit a voucher to get paid for his time, Busch said.

When the D.A.R.E. program lost its funding, Plank kept it going by raising the money himself.

“And he had money left over that went into the Parks account,” Town Supervisor Jason Watts said. “It was about $6,000 left over.”

After accepting his plaque, Plank said Busch supported his efforts to operate the program.

“Rick [Busch] supported me 100% with everything I did,” Plank said. “There was never any question about what I was doing, how I was doing it. He just was a driving force behind me.”

Plank is retiring from the police department and the D.A.R.E. program. The program is expected to be discontinued with his departure.

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