LONDON – Nancy Hale, a long-time educator and current Co-Program Director of the UNITE Service Corps (AmeriCorps) initiative, will become President and Chief Executive Officer of Operation UNITE effective Monday, February 9.

Hale succeeds Dan Smoot, who has been tapped to lead a new drug prevention/education initiative for Appalachia HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area).

“I am humbled and appreciative of the Board’s decision and their faith in my abilities to lead Operation UNITE,” Hale said. “It has been an honor to be part of the UNITE team – both as a volunteer and an employee – in service to our communities. There is nothing more important we can do than to educate and save our youth.”

“We first became acquainted with Nancy through her volunteering with the UNITE community coalition in Rockcastle County,” noted Tom Handy, chairman of the UNITE Board of Directors. “She has been an excellent leader in creating and sustaining educational and treatment programs. We have every expectation that she will take UNITE to new heights.”

“I have the utmost respect and confidence in Nancy Hale’s abilities to lead the UNITE program,” said Kentucky Fifth District Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, whose vision resulted in the creation of the anti-drug initiative in 2003. “She is highly respected and brings a solid background of leadership, skills and compassion to the position.”

Hale retired from public education in 2012 after 34 years as a teacher, career counselor, and administrative coordinator. That fall she joined UNITE to help provide coordination for the AmeriCorps grant program, which currently serves 44 elementary schools in 13 districts across southern and eastern Kentucky.

Very involved in her community, Hale has served as an Executive Board Member and volunteer with the Rockcastle County (KY) UNITE Coalition for the last 10 years, with the Kentucky YMCA Youth Association for 25 years, as well as a current Board Member and twice-elected President of the Kentucky Association of Professional Educators.

As a member of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society, Pi Chapter, Hale was named “Kentucky Volunteer of the Year” in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2004. She received the “Golden Apple Achiever Award” from Ashland Oil, Inc. in 2000 as one of Kentucky’s outstanding educators. In 2001, she was chosen as the “Kentucky YMCA Champion,” and was the first inductee into the Kentucky YMCA Youth Advisor Hall of Fame in 2010.

She and her husband, John, also an educator and principal for 42 years, are the parents of two grown sons and have two granddaughters.

“Nancy is a passionate advocate for drug abuse prevention and education,” Smoot said. “Like many residents of the region, her family has endured the anguish and uncertainties of dealing with substance abuse. She is a well-respected and capable leader that brings a strong perspective to UNITE’s important mission.”

Prior to joining UNITE, Smoot worked 22 years with the Kentucky State Police – primarily in narcotics enforcement. In November 2003, Smoot joined UNITE as Drug Task Force Manager for the Kentucky River Region. A month later he was promoted to Law Enforcement Director, and in September 2011 was named UNITE Vice President. Smoot became President/CEO in May 2013. He begins he new role on March 1.

As AHIDTA’s first Director of Drug Prevention and Education Smoot will coordinate such programs as the “Give Me A Reason” drug prevention initiative, designed to provide youth another way to resist peer pressure to experiment with drugs. Launched in partnership with UNITE in October 2014, this program provides free saliva-based drug test kits to parents.

“Operation UNITE has become an extremely effective drug-fighting program, especially in addressing the need to educate our youth to the harmful effects of drug use,” said Frank Rapier, executive director of AHIDTA. “We want to replicate this huge success into other areas of Appalachia.”

“Dan has proven to be a true professional and tireless worker,” Rapier continued. “We want to utilize his skills to continue coalition-building and find new ways to be more effective in stopping the cycle of abuse.”