A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky by Heart: Hatton has an incurable need to help people, all with a smile on his face

By Steve Flairty
NKyTribune columnist

Reading Dale Hatton’s posts on Facebook are sure to put a grin on your face.

He likes to share his light touch with some low-key humor, usually of the clean variety and always good-natured in content. As you read him daily, you’ll also likely find him to be a caring sort, one who has a genuine passion to help those in his Winchester community who “are having a hard time,” as he terms it.

In doing so, Dale says, he helps to “bring the community together.” Referring to his plea for those who have to give to those who have not, he says: “It’s like moving things from one side of the tracks to the other side.”

These are a few typical requests Dale shares with his Facebook audience concerning helping individuals in need:

— “I have a lady that just got a job. She needs a size 8 steel toe boots to start. Let me know if anyone can help.”

— “Looking for a shower chair for a cancer patient.”

— “I am excited for a young lady that got a job today. She starts Thursday and can’t wait. She needs black 17-18 pants and black slide-free shoes size 6 1/2-7. If anyone can help, let me know.”

— “I am helping a mother and three children that had a house fire. They are in desperate need of an electric cooking stove. If anyone has one, please let me know.”

Dale Hatton and wife, Terah (Photo Provided)

Remarkably, Dale’s efforts prove successful much of the time. He’s become adept at saying the right things and faithfully following up. He serves as a board member with the local organization that provides emergency shelter and care for homeless individuals, called The Beacon of Hope. Often, his postings are in regard to helping those transitioning from the shelter to their own place.

“They move to a new apartment,” said Dale, “and have absolutely nothing to put in it.”

The mission of the homeless shelter is important to him.

Most of his daily outreach, however, is not directly related to the work of the homeless shelter. The scope of his outreach around the county, and even beyond, takes into account that though many are not homeless, they are, at least, temporarily in need. That’s where Dale activates his community to give a kind hand, using the leverage of about 2,500 “friends” on Facebook.

He usually doesn’t ask for money, but just for friends to give, as examples, some of their time to help move a piece of furniture, or to use their truck to move an item. It might mean donating items pegged for a thrift shop to go directly into the hands of one with an immediate need.

Whatever seems workable is likely going to be a Facebook posting, and it will be done in a respectful manner.

He simply does what he can do within the realm of his limitations.

“I don’t own a truck, so I rely on others who do,” said Dale. He usually finds one. “And I don’t pay bills for people.” Those needing money, according to Dale, might consider other avenues. He doesn’t want to over promise.

Continually, his Facebook postings and his well-earned credibility bring a bit of hope to the down-trodden, and it happens with no red tape. All Dale asks is that the need be real and requested for that reason. A pet peeve of his is those who don’t oblige. He won’t forget the individual who accepted a home appliance given, then attempted to sell it on a local trading post outlet.

“I usually go visit people and check out the situation beforehand now,” he said.

The terrible consequences of a house fire, leaving people suddenly without the basics, noted Dale, “is my first priority. I actually keep a storage building full of just clothes for house fire victims. We just meet at the building and I tell them to take all they want.”

The free use of the storage facility was given to Dale by a local business.

His wife of 13 years, Terah, is fully onboard with her husband’s need to serve others. She better be, because he appears to be incurable.

“This operation would be a wreck if I didn’t have her,” Dale said, smiling. “She puts up with me. When I’m moving furniture at 9 o’clock at night, most people’s wives would be mad about it. She knows why I do it.”

All that extra effort comes after working five and a half days per week as the manager of a Winchester car dealership, Millennium Motors.

Terah is a talented graphic artist and helps promote fund-raising activities for the Beacon of Hope, and she also facilitates Dale’s efforts outside the shelter.

“I never know what’s going to be in my trunk,” kidded Terah, a Winchester Sun employee. She recalls a tender moment when her husband two took a mattress and frame to someone in need and donated by a friend.

“The need and things literally fell into place,” she said. “Dale goes to take it to them and asks if they need anything (else). He says ‘No’ and Dale says ‘Well, do you have a bed?’ He says ‘No, sir.’ Dale goes on to tell him he has one in the car. The man says ‘How much?’ Dale tells him it’s free. From what Dale described, pure relief and elation came over this gentleman.”

The “why” of why he does it becomes pretty clear after one hears about his poor and difficult childhood.

“I was raised in first through third grade (in Clark County) in a hollow in a three-room house,” explained Dale. “It was rough. Dad was a bad alcoholic, but he was a good man. Mom took off to Ohio and left me there (in Clark County) with my step-dad. All of us kids got split up.”

Amazingly, Dale began to work for hire on local tobacco farms, starting as a third-grader.

“In school, I paid for my own lunches and books,” he said.

Steve Flairty grew up feeling good about Kentucky. He recalls childhood day trips (and sometimes overnight ones) orchestrated by his father, with the take-off points being in Campbell County. The people and places he encountered then help define his passion about the state now. After teaching 28 years, Steve spends much of his time today writing and reading about the state, and still enjoys doing those one dayers (and sometimes overnighters). “Kentucky by Heart” shares part and parcel of his joy. A little history, much contemporary life, intriguing places, personal experiences, special people, book reviews, quotes, and even a little humor will, hopefully, help readers connect with their own “inner Kentucky.”

Tragically, his step-father died and Dale was handed off to his grandmother and lived with her from the third grade to his freshman year at Winchester’s George Rogers Clark High School. Then came another change, this time back to his mother in Dayton, Ohio, where he attended high school and did quite well academically, even serving as president of the school’s business marketing club.

Dale’s parents have passed, but he is inspired daily by their plea to him as they died: “Help as many people as you can.” And he does just that.

Recently, Dale and a local minister worked together to organize a trip to Houston, Texas, to carry a load of goods to those challenged by the ravages of Hurricane Harvey. He’s also led in an effort to find supplies for homeless people in Cincinnati.

Likely because of his obvious authenticity and kind heart, others proved recently that they can be quick to support Dale personally, too.

“I needed surgery and it was going to cost me $2,500,” he explained. “I didn’t have the money, and a friend started a Go Fund Me account on Facebook. In three hours, the money was raised.”

Dale somehow finds time to enjoy his hobby of writing songs, though at this time he doesn’t play any instruments.

“I have two guitars though,” he offered. Borrowing partly from the name of an iconic Winchester soft drink, he penned a song called “Ale-8s, Tailgates & Two-Dollar Wine.” Someday he’d like to sing it publicly.

You can be sure he’d do it from deep in his heart, just like he carries a tune for those who are having a hard time.

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Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of six books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and five in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #4,” was released in 2015. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly NKyTribune columnist and a member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

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