ONNEAUT — Safety Town, Conneaut’s little city within a city, is again ready to teach dozens of youngsters some healthy do’s-and-don’ts at Corpus Christi Parish Hall.
For almost half a century, the Conneaut Lions Club has sponsored Safety Town. The name comes from the pint-size community — complete with houses, stores and a traffic signal — that stands for two weeks in the church parking lot.
Starting Monday, a pair of week-long safety sessions will take place mornings at the church hall on Mill Street. Almost 150 children who will enter kindergarten in August will attend, learning a variety of safety lessons taught by long-time director Madeleine Plosila. She will be assisted by a variety of guest instructors, including police officers and firefighters. At the end of the week, students receive “diplomas” at a Saturday morning ceremony.
The classroom portion of the program is fun, but the real highlight for the kids is time spent in Safety Town. Aboard tricycles and escorted by their personal teenage helper, the children pedal through the town, learning basic street safety rules.
Club members, with a big assist from Conneaut High School football players, erected Safety Town late Thursday afternoon. In less than two hours, the miniature buildings were removed from a nearby storage facility and put in place behind the church.
Next week kicks off the 48th annual version of the program.
“We have the oldest Lions Club Safety Town in Ohio,” said Mike David, a long-time Lion and Town historian. “We may be one of the oldest in the country.”
Thousands of children have participated in the program since its debut, said Kenneth Powell, club president.
“We’re seeing our fourth generation of students,” he said.
The longevity of Safety Town is reflected in the tiny buildings. Many have seen years of use and bear the names of businesses that vanished long ago, such as B&B Cleaners, Emhoff Motors, Jack Leonard Marine, Conneaut Plaza Cinema and Johnson’s Drive-In.
A building or two is usually added each year, meaning Safety Town will continue to expand, Powell said.
The program gets a financial assist from the Conneaut Elks Club.
“We have a long-standing relationship,” said Jim Thompson, Elks’ exalted ruler.
The Elks also assist the Right Track after-school program and youth sports, he said.
Goals for Safety Town are simple, Powell said.
“We want to make children comfortable around police and firefighters and teach some basic traffic rules,” he said.
Club members are already thinking two years ahead, when Safety Town celebrates its 50th birthday in 2017. Something special might take place, Powell said.
“We’re working up some thoughts on that,” he said.
Plosila, a retired Conneaut teacher, said she can’t wait. Safety Town director for 29 years, Plosila is postponing her departure until the program’s golden anniversary.
“I was going to retire, but now I want to be a part of the big day,” she said.