Ron Clark worked to build a lasting institution committed to providing substance abuse treatment for addicted individuals. He spent 60 years of his life, 49 here in the District, acting on this commitment. Ron’s strength and seriousness of purpose reminds those who knew him of an incident which clearly illustrates an important ingredient in the creation of a durable organization: integrity.

At a time when jail punishment served as the standard handling of drug-addicted individuals, Ron fought for treatment instead. So, one of RAP’s early priority initiatives included working with D.C. courts to send people charged with minor drug offenses to RAP. Under this agreement, it was RAP’s duty to see that thirdparty custody clients — those still connected to the courts — made all their appointments and upheld their obligations.

The confrontation occurred when U.S. Marshals came to RAP’s door looking for an individual who they said had failed to report to court on a matter and wanted to do a search of the facility. Ron denied their request for entry. His position was that they could not search the facility, invade the privacy of the residents and destroy the trust RAP had purposefully and assiduously built with clients over time. Ron stood in front of the door to block the Marshals’entry, saying that if the person was a RAP resident, RAP would see to it that the person met his or her requirement to report to court. Ron was willing to go to jail rather than permit the search of the facility. So, the Marshals took him.  

As it turned out, the Marshals had the wrong date for the court matter. On the correct date, RAP had followed its established procedures and escorted the person to court. The client was supported in meeting his responsibility and was sent back to RAP to continue treatment. RAP’s relationship with the court was maintained and the trust with clients was strengthened.

Ron was willing to go to jail, illustrating a core value of RAP – that integrity matters and is a major reason RAP continues its mission and service to the community 51 years after its founding.  

The RAP, Inc. Board named the newest building on the treatment campus The Ronald C. Clark Center to honor their founder. More than two decades ago, Ron honored activist and newspaper publisher Dr. Calvin Rolark in the same way for his wide-ranging support and many charitable contributions to the organization at critical moments.  

The current executive director of RAP, Inc. is Michael Pickering. Exercising that same commitment to integrity and bold service, he has guided the organization through the critical challenges of thepandemic, treading skillfully to keep every client and employee safe. The expense of providing a safe environment is huge with the need for funding ongoing. So, diligent and determined employees created a GoFundMe campaign to help:  

On this second anniversary of Ron’s death, help make sure that his work continues to be funded and that RAP, Inc. continues to serve. Send donations through the GoFundMe site or mail them to 1949 4th Street NE, Washington, DC, 20002. Contributions in any amount will be welcome.  

The need continues. The struggle continues.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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