Editor's Note: This is the next in a series of articles about the member agencies of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.
PARKERSBURG - Promoting children's safety is the goal of Parkersburg Safetytown.
Mary Ann Osborne, Safetytown director, said for 30 years the program has been teaching basic safety skills.
A group of Parkersburg Safetytown students gathers around a Parkersburg fire engine as a firefighter speaks during the 2012 program at Fairplains Elementary School. This year’s free program will be held 17-28 at the school.
A teacher and volunteer with the 2012 Parkersburg Safetytown talk in the Fairplains Elementary School gymnasium as students watch. This year’s free program will be held at the school again June 17-28.
"They begin to learn awareness of safety skills that are ongoing through life," she said. "It's for children completing kindergarten and going into first grade this fall."
Osborne, who began as a teacher in the program, said the safety topics include pedestrian and motor safety, bus safety, police as friends, strangers, water safety, poisons, fire, bicycle and helmet safety, Internet safety and pet safety.
Safetytown received $2,100 from the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley for safety education for children ages 5-7.
Osborne said they can handle up to 200 students. Safetytown is free.
"Over the past five years we have had about 100," she said. "We are in competition with a lot of school programs which is fine since they have a choice of a morning or afternoon session. This leaves room for other things, like swimming lessons, tennis lessons, art classes, Bible school, scouts or anything else and still do Safetytown."
Osborne said the program is open to public and private school children in Wood County. Osborne said the staff includes two full-time teachers, a part-time teacher with early childhood education certification, a custodian and at times a nurse.
"We also have several middle and high school students who volunteer as well as parents and members of our board of directors," she said.
When it began, Safetytown was part of a national safety education program. It is now independent.
"We have our own program, a two-week program where some are one week and all day and ours is a half day," she said. "We hit on new safety skills every day and the children will rotate through five sessions. They will have a snack and have an opportunity to go out on the miniature city and learn pedestrian and motor safety."
Osborne said the children see a film on the safety skill covered and includes guest speakers and a classroom session to cover what was learned."
Safetytown sessions are 9 - 11:30 a.m. and 1 - 3:30 p.m.
A graduation program will be held June 27.
"They will receive a graduation certificate shaped like a stop sign," she said. "They will get to wear their new Safetytown T-shirts and this one will be special since it is the 30th year."
In addition to the United Way, Safetytown receives help from the Kiwanis Club, United Bank and Commercial Bank.
For 2014, Safetytown will take place from June 16 - 27 at Fairplains Elementary School. Registration brochures have been sent to students.
"We are partnering with Easy Rider to provide free transportation for any students who may wish to have transportation," she said. "That information was included in the brochure."
Osborne said she will be stepping down as director after the 2014 session and a new organization may be taking over the program.
"Most of our board is getting to the age where we can't physically do it anymore," she said. "It has been a labor of love, but it's time to pass it on others."