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The D.A.R.E. program was gifted a new car by the Wyland Foundation. | Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com

REXBURG — The Rexburg and Madison County D.A.R.E. program has a new vehicle thanks to local fourth graders and Rexburg’s water conservation efforts.

Representatives from the Wyland Foundation, a non-profit foundation dedicated to clean water and oceans, donated a new Toyota Highlander Hybrid to the D.A.R.E. program during a ceremony at Madison Middle School Thursday. The car was part of a first-place award given to Rexburg Mayor Jerry Merrill by Foundation president Steve Creech for winning the Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation.

“We’re so excited for it to culminate with the winning of a car for the D.A.R.E. officers to use … the great thing about it is we just found out we used 128 acre-feet less of water this year than we did at this time last year,” Merrill says.

Residents from across the country participated in the water conservation challenge by pledging to save over a billion gallons of water over the next year. The campaign happens each year in the month of April to promote drought resiliency and see which city is the most water-wise. Merrill says some 10,000 pledges came from Rexburg.

Because of the city’s big win, a nominated charity got to be the recipient of a Toyota Hybrid SUV. The D.A.R.E. program was nominated several times through locals making pledges online to save water on the Wyland Foundation’s website.

“I think what separated Rexburg in this initiative was that it was truly a community initiative. You had the schools involved, you had the companies involved, and you had great support from the city leaders,” Creech says.

Rexburg Police officer Shawn Scott accepted the vehicle on behalf of D.A.R.E. With this new car the D.A.R.E. program can further its drug awareness campaign.

Sharee Barton and her 4th grade students from last school year. | Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com

“By and large everybody loves the D.A.R.E. program here in Rexburg and so when we contacted the D.A.R.E. program officer Shawn Scott said this vehicle was sorely needed by the community and it would end up serving a region of 90,000 residents,” Creech says. Merrill says through the efforts of Sharee Barton’s fourth-graders in April, water conservation became a priority. In addition to the pledges made by residents and businesses, the kids presented an idea to city council on water-friendly landscaping and the mayor moved forward with their propositions. “We started a project and teamed up with the city and started planting water-wise plants down on Center street in Rexburg,” Barton says. Barton says when the Mayor’s Water Challenge came across Merrill’s desk he asked if the class would partner with him and help him.

Rexburg Mayor Jerry Merrill standing with Officer Shawn Scott. | Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com

“They worked really hard and I think it’s such a magical way to empower them; to teach them that their voice can really make a difference.” Barton says. Creech says what separated Rexburg from 3,000 cities in the contest was its community initiative as schools, companies, and city leaders were involved in the work. The city also had more pledges per capita than other cities. “The cool thing about what’s happening here in Rexburg is that it was the fourth graders that actually drove this program to the city council,” Creech says. “It’s really the best combination of our kids working together with our companies and our government.”

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Copyright 2019 D.A.R.E. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2019 D.A.R.E. All Rights Reserved.