Lyndhurst Police Foundation and YMCA bring back Safety Town for young children

LYNDHURST, Ohio – It’s been a while, but Safety Town is back in operation in Lyndhurst.

In partnership with the Hillcrest YMCA, the City of Lyndhurst and the Lyndhurst Police Foundation, Lyndhurst police brought back Safety Town this year to the City Hall grounds.

In the back lot, near the city’s fire station, sits a little “town,” complete with lined streets, tiny buildings and working traffic signals with stop bars in front of them. The stop bars are used to teach the young drivers of Big Wheel-type three-wheelers exactly where they – and drivers on the real roadways – should properly come to a stop.

The two-hour sessions, being held mornings and early evenings on weekdays this week and for different students next week, also include some indoor classroom learning.

During one such indoor session, youngsters ages 4-7 munched on snacks as they closely watched a cartoon on how and when to properly use 911 services. While inside the fire station building, students also get to hear from police officers and firefighters and to complete worksheets.

Bringing Safety Town instruction back to Lyndhurst was a goal of LPD Detective Lt. Michael Scipione, who doesn’t exactly know when it was last held in Lyndhurst. He does recall taking part when he was a little boy, across Mayfield Road at Lyndhurst Community Presbyterian Church.

“But that was 40 years ago, so it’s been a while,” he said. “In my 23 years here as a police officer, we haven’t done (Safety Town).

“I thought it would be something good and different,” Scipione said of why he sought to bring back Safety Town. “I thought it was odd that it disappeared a long time ago and hadn’t come back.

“What I learned was that when SELREC (South Euclid-Lyndhurst Recreation, which operated recreation in the two cities) disbanded back in the day, everything went on a hiatus.

“We probably hadn’t (Safety Town) in Lyndhurst in 25 years,” said Scipione, who is president of the Lyndhurst Police Foundation, which held events to raise money to put on Safety Town.

Those events included a golf outing at the Mayfield Country Club and a reverse raffle, as well as a current fundraiser in which officers can donate money in return for being permitted to grow beards. Police Chief Patrick Rhode is among those now sporting a beard.

“We’ll have about 60 kids over the two weeks,” Scipione said. ”Most of the kids are from the South Euclid-Lyndhurst School (District). All instruction is handled by the police and fire departments. We have about 10 to 15 police and firefighters taking part. ”

Scipione said it is his first time teaching youngsters. He chuckled when he said, “I have kids myself, but they’re older now, so it’s been awhile since I’ve had interpersonal dealings with kids this age.

“We have our school resource officers here, too, to guide us through. The YMCA also has a facilitator that helps us and guides us along. ”

The city’s service department put together and lined Safety Town.

Lyndhurst Police Chief Patrick Rhode instructs some young drivers as to where they should stop when a traffic signal turns red. (Jeff Piorkowski, special to cleveland.com)

Scipione said the Lyndhurst Police Foundation was formed a couple of years ago to hold activities for the betterment of the city, but its first project, Safety Town, was delayed because of COVID-19.

As to what children learn at Safety Town, Scipione said, “They learn how to cross the street properly, they learn what the traffic signals do – the red lights, the stop sign, the yield sign. They learn stopping before a crosswalk.

“They’ll learn bus safety. We’ll bring a bus over from South Euclid-Lyndhurst City Schools and get them on the bus. It’ll take them around, and we’ll show them how to get on and off the bus.

“We’ll also go over to the pool and teach a little water safety.

“We also have planned‘ stranger danger ’and scheduled animal safety – how to be around animals kids are not familiar with,” he said.

“So we’re trying to get as much packed into this week as we can, and we’ll send them home with a lot of worksheets and coloring activities so that when they leave here, they’ll have hours more of enjoyment learning how to be a well-rounded citizen in our community. ”

When asked if attending Safety Town helped him those many years ago, Scipione smiled and replied: “I would have to say so. Knock on wood, I avoided any major catastrophes as a child. ”

There are a few openings for day and evening Safety Town classes for the week of June 28 to July 2. For information, call the Hillcrest YMCA at 216-382-4300.

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