An act of kindness has morphed into an ongoing partnership between the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office and the Southern Maryland Young Marines Unit. The Young Marines' mission is to impact America's future positively by providing quality youth development programs for boys and girls. These programs nurture and help members develop into responsible citizens who enjoy and promote a healthy, drug-free lifestyle. Recently, the Southern Maryland Young Marines Unit was selected for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Enrique “KiKi” Camarena Division Award. The award honors six units, one award per division, for drug demand reduction efforts through community education and peer-to-peer role modeling.
In recognition of their common cause, the Young Marines invited deputies from the Sheriff's Office to their Saturday, July 16, 2016 meeting, for light refreshments and conversation. During the meeting, the officers volunteered to take part in an impromptu panel discussion. They encouraged the Young Marines to ask them open and honest questions about recent events surrounding law enforcement and told the Young Marines how mutual respect between citizens and law enforcement officers can have a positive impact on interactions between the two.
The officers also spoke about the nature of leadership and shared the characteristics of leaders. When the Young Marines told the officers about their own drug reduction efforts, the idea of the partnership was born.
“When we learned the Young Marines wanted to get involved, we immediately recognized the benefit of bringing this group of young men and women into Sheriff’s Office initiatives to help us change the culture surrounding drug misuse and abuse in St. Mary’s County. We can police, we can educate, but you start to see the fruits of your labor when community groups such as the Young Marines get involved,” says Capt. Daniel Alioto of the Sheriff's Office. “We are both working toward the same goal in the community. Why not bring the two together and extend our resources?”
After the initial meeting, deputies began brainstorming on how to utilize Young Marines in a way that would connect with their mission. Corporal Peggy Smolarskly, Leonardtown Community Policing Deputy, proposed involving the Young Marines in community policing events, specifically in downtown Leonardtown.
In addition, Young Marines will act as Camp D.A.R.E. counselors, under the leadership of Cpl. Angela Delozier. The previous work by Young Marines in drug-demand reduction efforts will be valuable to the Camp D.A.R.E. program, and as counselors, they will play a vital role in helping to coordinate Camp D.A.R.E. Also, they will be able to enhance their leadership skills by serving as youth leaders.
Further, during Red Ribbon Week, an alcohol, tobacco, violence prevention awareness campaign observed annually in October in the United States, the Sheriff’s Office and the Young Marines will co-host “Chasing the Dragon”. "Chasing the Dragon" is an FBI documentary that attempts to combat the surge in heroin addiction through increased awareness and features interviews with survivors of substance abuse and family members of those suffering from addiction.
On Thursday, August 4, Southern Maryland Young Marines Unit Adjutant, Mrs. Leigh Willis, and her son, Young Marine Sgt. Jake Willis, met with Sheriff’s Office deputies, to discuss these and other ideas. Sheriff Tim Cameron says, “We are excited to partner with this bright group of young men and leaders in our community. We have formed a mutually-beneficial partnership with will serve the community and the youth in St. Mary’s County for years to come.”
Rob Willis, Unit Commander, Southern Maryland Young Marines, concurs, “As a National Youth Organization, we are committed to creating the next generation of leaders and engaged citizens. The Southern Maryland Young Marines are excited about our partnership with the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office as we seek to impact young men and women in communities across Southern Maryland in a positive way.”
|First Sergeant John Vanhoy, Captain Daniel Alioto, and Captain Steven Hall meet with the Southern Maryland Young Marines Unit.|
|Captain Daniel Alioto, Unit Adjutant Mrs. Leigh Willis, and her son Young Marine Sgt. Jake Willis meet with Corporal Angela Delozier and Corporal Peggy Smolarsky to discuss future ways for the Sheriff's Office and the Young Marines to partner.|