GREENFIELD — When Darla Smoak learned her daughter’s car had broken down, she was overwhelmed. Her grandson suffered from a number of medical issues that often required urgent medical care. Without a reliable means of transportation to get to the hospital, the Smoaks were becoming distraught. But an unexpected helper rose to the occasion.
Hancock County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Maj. Brad Burkhart was awarded the Stephen T. Dyer Community Service Award at the Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse annual meeting Friday. NASA recognized Burkhart and other community leaders for their efforts serving their community.
Burkhart learned of Smoak’s troubles through an email she sent to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department. Without being asked, Burkhart took the problem into his own hands. He got in touch with Smoak, picked up the car from her daughter’s house, delivered it to his brother’s auto body shop to be repaired and returned it to the family, fixed, free of charge.
Astonished by his caring heart and selflessness, Smoak wrote a letter to NASA, nominating Burkhart for NASA’s annual Stephen T. Dyer Community Service Award, which recognizes members of the community who show a commitment to helping others in need.
Receiving the award was an unexpected moment, Burkhart said. He did not anticipate public praise for his actions; he didn’t help Smoak for a medal or a certificate.
“I didn’t think I’d be given any recognition for it,” Burkhart said. “That’s not why we do the things we do… It’s very humbling.”
Burkhart has served with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department for 30 years, having worked as a parole officer, investigator and as a tactical operator on the SWAT team. He has been Sheriff Mike Shepherd’s chief deputy for seven years.
Burkhart was instrumental in helping the department form the underage drinking task force, which is still operating strong today, said Shepherd. He’s been involved from the beginning, making sure that the department has a good relationship with community programs like DARE and NASA.
“I’ve told him multiple times, I couldn’t have picked a better chief deputy,” Shepherd said.
NASA wants to show gratitude to all who join them in the fight to prevent youth substance abuse, said NASA executive director Tim Retherford. NASA members were pleased to see that Burkhart’s nomination came from outside their organization and are grateful to other community organizations — as well as individuals like Burkhart — who share their mission, Retherford said.
NASA also awarded grants to schools, law enforcement branches and churches with programs aimed at preventing underage drinking and drug use. The 2018 NASA grant recipients were:
Mt. Vernon High School, Hancock County DARE, Eastern Hancock schools, Greenfield-Central schools, Hancock County Tobacco Free Coalition, The Landing, Brandywine Community Church, Brookville Road Community Church, Hancock County Community Corrections, Mental Health Partners of Hancock County, Talitha Koum Women’s Recovery House, Jail Intervention Program, Hancock County Drug Task Force, Underage Drinking Task Force and the NASA Youth Council.