Fourth of July: Drug Court graduate, family and friends hand out free meals in Centralia


While many fired up their own backyard barbecues on Thursday, July 4, to have a cookout celebrating the U.S. Independence Day, Leah Rader, joined by her family and friends, set up their grill in front of the Tower Avenue Chevron in Centralia she manages.

There, they grilled up hot dogs and served them with a side of potato salad, a cookie and a bottle of water to anyone who wanted a meal beginning at 10 a.m.

“We had people lining up before 10, but luckily we had the grill fired up already and were able to give them hotdogs,” Rader said.

Inspired by the efforts of Gather Church to feed those in need on holidays, on Thanksgiving in 2022 Rader started handing out free holiday meals herself using her own money and donations. She has been giving out hundreds of free meals on major holidays ever since.

“I have been pulled from every direction today, and, during that, Donavan Houston has held down the fort,” Rader said. “Along with my daughter, Layla.”

A mother of three, Rader is also a Lewis County Drug Court graduate and continues to help advocate for recovery and spread awareness about the dangers of substance abuse. Last December, Rader’s brother, Blake Hansen, died after relapsing and suffering an overdose.

Created in 2004, Lewis County Drug Court is a voluntary program for addicts charged with a felony, according to Drug Court Program Manager Stephanie Miller.

The program targets high need and risk offenders with a poor prognosis for success on their own. It aids them with structure and support using a three-phase recovery program. Drug Court lasts a minimum of 16 months with most participants graduating after 19 to 22 months.

To graduate, a Drug Court participant must have a full-time job, stable housing, complete recommended treatment, be clean for at least six months, in the program for at least 16 months, have a sober mentor and pay any court-ordered fines and restitution stemming from their case, Miller added. Once a person graduates, their charges are dismissed.

Rader graduated from Drug Court herself in 2020 and has now been sober for more than six years.