By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVINDALE – More than five dozen local children continue to have fun while learning about safety this week at the Kiwanis Club’s 13th annual Safety Town.
The two-week event, aimed at 4- to 6-year-olds, runs through Friday at Fire Department headquarters next to City Hall and the police station.
“Melvindale Kiwanis brought Safety Town to Melvindale in 1997, and it has been our favorite project ever since,” said City Council President Sue Herman. “It’s truly a community endeavor.”
Police officers, firefighters and other adult and teen volunteers help ensure the program’s success. Police teach children about stranger danger and seat belt usage, while the firefighters teach fire safety lessons.
School bus safety is taught during an actual ride in a school bus, and participants receive a fitting and free bike helmets after learning about their importance as well.
“The Fire Department has provided the ‘muscle’ to design and erect Safety Town and are so good-natured about dealing with troops of little children underfoot in the fire house for two weeks,” Herman said.
Safety Town’s layout includes a miniature parking lot-sized grid with kid-sized shanties, through which children maneuver Big Wheels. Lane markers, battery-powered stanchion stoplights and other kid-level street signs reinforce road safety lessons.
Teen members of the Kiwanis-sponsored Key Club at Melvindale High School and teens doing volunteer work prior to their rite of confirmation work closely with the participating children as well. Certified teacher Megan Gomez and Meagan Shihadeh, a senior at Eastern and teacher to be, round out the volunteer staff.
“Safety Town is a great experience for young children,” Shihadeh said. “It reinforces safety rules they may already know and introduces many new ones as well. We make learning about safety fun with songs, hands on experiences, and projects. The children seem to really enjoy themselves.”
“The impact of Safety Town became clear in a personal way to Mayor Cadez when she experienced a house fire several years ago,” Herman said. “Her grandson, a Safety Town graduate who is now a teenager … knew exactly what to do. His quick action helped avoid injury and certainly minimized the damage.”
A parent class session with police and fire professionals helps parents understand and integrate their children’s learning experience.
Melvindale Kiwanis Club members encourage new volunteers to join their ranks. For more information call local President Mary Suiter at (313) 382-6538.
By SUE SUCHYTA