For the past 13 years, Tom Hausmann has been playing an active role in keeping area children on the straight and narrow.
Hausmann, a Washington native, has served as chair of the Washington Elks Lodge 1559 drug awareness program since 1995.
The program culminates annually during Red Ribbon Week, held Oct. 24-31 this year.
“We go into the schools and talk to kids about not doing drugs,” Hausmann said. “It was tough to get started. We got some of the ideas from a similar program at Beaufort Elementary.”
Hausmann said the in-school programs are designed to introduce students to people in the community who can have a positive influence on their lives — fire, ambulance and police chiefs and local elected officials — as well as educate.
The drug awareness program also includes an annual poster and essay contest.
Hausmann said he helped get the essay contest started in Missouri and has been involved in it for the past six years.
He said he works with local law enforcement to approach children at a younger age.
“When we started this, D.A.R.E. officers were only able to get to the high schools and junior highs,” Hausmann said.
Hausmann’s decision to chair the program came naturally, he said.
A past exalted ruler and son of one of the lodge’s charter members, Hausmann has been an Elk for 45 years.
Following his retirement from Chrysler after 30 years, he wanted to give back to the community he called home.
“It’s about the people who are involved. They’re good, friendly people. They pat you on the back and are proud of what we do,” Hausmann said of the Elks.
“When they found out I retired, they asked if I’d take a chair,” he said. That turned into other volunteer opportunities, such as working at fundraiser fish and chicken fries.
By volunteering, Hausmann said he is helping out where younger members can’t.
“When I was an exalted ruler, I don’t think there was anyone involved under age 50,” he said. “That has turned around. (The lodge) is being taken over by the younger crowd, and that is great.”
Hausmann was exalted ruler of the lodge from 1999-2000.
He has remained focused on the drug awareness program as a way both to help the community and to help future Elks, he said.
The program, and Hausmann’s work, benefits children the most.
“I had a counselor tell me this year that every year, after we do these programs (during Red Ribbon Week), she has at least one student come in and tell them their parents are on drugs,” he said.
“But if I can keep one kid off drugs, I’ve done my job,” Hausmann said. “I know I’ve affected many children.
“I had been a member for all those years, and I thought it was about time to give something back. That’s when I thought well, I’m just going to do it through the Elks,” he said.
In his retirement, he spends a lot of time working with the Elks as well as with his family, including two daughters and several grandchildren.
Later this month, Hausmann said the drug awareness essay and poster entries will be judged.
After that, it will be on to planning for an annual drug and safety event for the summer.
The event is going on its third year. It was held this past year at the Washington JCPenney parking lot.
Local police, fire and ambulance personnel are on hand at the event to meet with children and families.
The event’s just another way Hausmann is involved with helping the place he calls home.
“It’s ongoing, all the time,” he said.