SOMERSET – Karen Engle, who heads the anti-drug organization Operation UNITE, will now also coordinate the PRIDE initiative in Southern and Eastern Kentucky.
Engle became president and chief executive officer of both organizations on Monday, June 25, following approval from PRIDE’s Board of Directors last Friday.
Engle replaces former PRIDE Executive Director Richard Thomas, who went to work for the Kentucky Office of Charitable Gaming earlier this month.
“Karen is no stranger to PRIDE, having served three years as its executive director,” said Fifth District Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers. “I know her knowledge and leadership will serve both organizations well as they continue to make Southern and Eastern Kentucky a desirable place to live.”
PRIDE, which promotes Personal Responsibility In a Desirable Environment in 38 counties, was launched in 1997 by Rogers and the late General James Bickford, former Secretary of the Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet. Their vision was to restore the natural beauty of their native region by encouraging citizens to take responsibility for protecting their environment and by providing the education and resources they need to do so.
PRIDE unites citizens with the resources of federal, state and local governments in order to: 1) improve water quality in the region, 2) clean up illegal trash dumps and other solid waste problems, and 3) promote environmental awareness and education. The first two goals are aimed at cleaning up the existing problems created by the region's two primary pollution sources: dumping trash illegally and discharging raw sewage through straight pipes or failing septic systems. The third goal addresses the need to break the cycle of pollution.
Created by Rogers in 2003, Operation UNITE, which stands for Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment & Education, is a regional anti-drug initiative empowering citizens groups and community leaders in 29 Southern and Eastern Kentucky counties.
Through community coalitions, UNITE seeks to fight this drug epidemic by expanding drug awareness and education programs to keep people from using drugs; coordinating drug treatment and outreach programs for those who are already addicted; and operating regional undercover law enforcement task forces for interdiction and prosecution of those dealing drugs.
“I am humbled by the confidence Congressman Rogers has expressed in my ability to coordinate two of his flagship programs,” Engle said. “I see so much potential for PRIDE and UNITE to make a difference in the lives of every person in Southern and Eastern Kentucky.”
“Both organizations are led by a quality staff,” she continued. “I will utilize this talent to expand existing programs and create new opportunities.”
Engle, a native of Pike County, worked for Rogers from 1994 to 1999, first as case worker in Pikeville then as a field representative and project manager in Hazard. She left to become assistant director of PRIDE, and was promoted to its executive director in May 2000. Three years later Engle was tapped by Rogers to create UNITE following a series of newspaper articles detailing the region’s drug epidemic.
A graduate of Elkhorn City High School, she received a bachelor of science degree in management with a marketing minor from Union College.
Engle is a 2003 graduate of the Leadership Tri-County program, received the “2004 Aurora Awards Gold Award” for producing the 2003 PRIDE ENVI Awards show, was featured by the Corbin Times-Tribune newspaper in September 2005 as one of 20 successful people under age 40 in the Tri-County area (Knox, Laurel and Whitley counties), and received Leadership Tri-County’s “William D. Hacker, M.D., Leader of the Year 2006” award in January 2006. She is currently a participant in the Leadership Kentucky program.
Currently she is a member of the Union College Alumni Association and serves as a member of Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Drug Control Assessment Team and the Council on Post-Secondary Education Nominating Committee. She is a former member of the Board of Directors for the Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky.