Safe Kids Coalition in search of volunteers

Jun. 17, 2013 @ 08:01 PM

Weather permitting, when the Safe Kids Coalition gathers for its event today, a lot of behind the scenes activities will be happening or will have already happened.

There’ll be some sponsoring funding having taken place. Officers with the Henderson Police Department will have juggled daily duties and schedules so those in attendance could be away from other matters.

And there’ll be volunteers who have done prep work, or who are on scene.

But there is a need going unmet.

“We need volunteers,” said Sgt. Angela Feingold.

“We want to let people know, anybody can become a member of Safe Kids,” said Sgt. Jessica West. “You do not have to be a member of law enforcement or the fire department. You can be a grandparent at home, a mother at home that would like to donate your time and volunteer for Safe Kids Henderson-Vance. We’re a working coalition and we’re seeking volunteers.”

Currently, the roster of volunteers is down to less than two dozen. Vance County children are feeling the impact.

Safe Kids Coalition events are most easily seen in and around Henderson for events like today’s bicycle safety rodeo at the Henderson Family YMCA, car seat checks at no cost, two medicine drops a year and several other safety and prevention-oriented programs. Some are in the form of classes.

West said some of the current events could be done more often, such as medicine drops, if more volunteers were available.

Robinson said volunteers should understand they don’t have to be certified in any discipline. But their presence as volunteers is needed at the events.

The Henderson-Vance County chapter is part of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global organization trying to prevent injuries to children. According to its website, injuries are the leading cause of child deaths.

The statistics are as eye-popping as the lack of volunteers to help in the county.

Around the world, two children die every minute as the result of an unintentional injury. Millions more suffer injuries during childhood that affect them for a lifetime.

“The main goal of Safe Kids is safety all around, whether you’re a caregiver, whether you’re a teenager watching a kid, whether you’re a parent, it is to educate them and anyone else who is doing anything with kids,” West said.

The tasks for volunteers sought in Vance County is varied. Feingold does a lot of grant writing, which usually produce grants in the amount of $300 to $500 for which there is usually no match needed.

She said letter-writers to lawmakers are also needed. And there is a need to help with fundraising, which helps provide training for volunteers wishing to be certified in various areas, such as car seat inspections, and it helps pay for things given to kids as safety reminders.

“More than 95 percent of car seats are installed wrong in Vance County,” said Lt. Irvin Robinson. “We try to educate the parents on the proper way of putting the car seat in correctly.”

Currently, the police department accepts appointments throughout the year to teach correct installation, and Safe Kids also has events, such as one last week.

Safe Kids Worldwide works several programs related to children at home, children in cars and around roads, and children in sports and at play.

“We can’t apply for a grant if we don’t have anybody that is going to be able to work the grant,” West said. “Us being the lead agency, we can’t be there all the time to do that. We have to have other people dedicated to put this awareness out there and allow us to continue to get these grants and funding to do what we need to do to keep these kids safe.”

The coalition locally was started in May 2001. It meets once a month, or as needed pending what events are scheduled.

“We just need the people to come out and help us,” Robinson said. “We don’t want them to get certified unless they want to. We need volunteers that are going to actually help us watch the kids while we’re putting the seats in the cars, or helping with the paperwork, or helping us at the meetings and all these events we do. Safety is our biggest thing, and when we do these international walks to school and all, we’ve got 200 or 300 kids, and maybe four of us.

“We need every volunteer we can get to help.”

“And more volunteers in more schools,” West added.

Robinson said he can be contacted at the police department by those wishing to volunteer. The phone number is (252) 438-4141.

Contact the writer at awooten@hendersondispatch.com.