The Petaluma Police Department’s DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program received a substantial boost at a recent Petaluma City Council meeting when Dick and Lucille Sharke presented Police Chief Ken Savano a check for $8,000 from the McDowell Drug Task Force to support the program and the Sharkes added a $2,000 personal donation.

The McDowell Drug Task Force, along with the Sharkes, have supported the DARE program for the past 37 years, donating approximately $350,000 in total.

In 2007, the Petaluma DARE program was staffed full time by police officers who instructed the program at most elementary schools in Petaluma. The program was eliminated in 2008 due to staffing reductions in the Petaluma Police Department.

Thanks to donations from the McDowell Drug Task Force, the Sharkes, the North Bay Association of Realtors Petaluma Chapter and other private donors, the DARE program has returned with officers working on their days off to teach classes.

The donations come as the Sharkes begin their annual rounds of visiting Petaluma-area schools leading up to Red Ribbon Week, a celebration of leading a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle.

The Sharkes will attempt to visit every elementary school in the area in the next three weeks, bringing gifts and the message of drug and alcohol resistance.

Red Ribbon Week begins with decorating schools with red ribbons on Oct. 20 and continues with a number of activities through Oct. 31 when students are asked to make a pledge to stay drug and alcohol free.

This year’s theme is “Your future is key, so stay drug free.”