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Fitting station grant to help GPD program

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Walmart market manager for west central Indiana Russ Koenig (right) presents a check for $10,000 to Greencastle Police Chief Tom Sutherlin and Mayor Sue Murray on Friday morning. The money will go toward Greencastle Police Department's Child Safety Seat Permanent Fitting Station.
The Greencastle Police Department was recently awarded a $10,000 grant from Walmart's "12 Days of Giving" holiday program. The money will be used toward purchasing new car seats, pool noodles and rubber shelf liner for the Greencalste Police Department's Child Safety Seat Permanent Fitting Station.

The program, which was started more than six years ago focuses on providing needy families in Greencastle with a way to obtain and install new carseats.

"Over 12 consecutive days before Christmas Walmart awarded a total of $1.5 million to 140 organizations across the country that provide basic needs and services such as food, shelter, clothing and medical care," said Russ Koenig, Walmart market manager for west central Indiana.

The campaign, which was promoted through Walmart's Facebook page, resulted in 21,677 nominations from users who submitted descriptions of each nonprofit's impact on its local community. Initially submissions were reviewed by Walmart associates from across the company and then a panel from the Walmart Foundation selected the winning organizations.

"We have a program that allows us to issue car seats to needy families in Greencastle," said Chief of Police Tom Sutherlin. "This is an important program to keep our children safe when they're riding in a car. We provide infant seats to pregnant mothers who are within a month of their due date. Not only do we supply a new seat, we also supply education on car seat safety and installations."

The program itself not only gives car seats to needy families, but to those who may not know the history of a pre-owned seat they may be using, seats with missing parts or labels, seats that have been outgrown or to those that have been involved in a crash.

However, to be eligible a family must be receiving some sort of government help such as WIC or Hoosier Healthwise Insurance.

According to the Automotive Safety Program, which sets the rules for who receives car seats, on an average day four children under the age of 14 are killed and about 600 children are injured in motor vehicle crashes in the United States.

In Indiana alone, more than 5,000 child injuries occurred in motor vehicle collisions in 2007, 49 of which were fatal.

"That $10,000 goes a long way for the work of a safety program," said Greencastle Mayor Sue Murray. "This check will be able to take care of some 80 plus children and their car seats. Over the last seven years more than 875 children and families have been helped (by this program). It's an amazing program and this (check) really helps a lot."

One reason for the high number of injuries and fatalities is because many children are still not properly restrained while riding in motor vehicles.

As many as nine out of every 10 child safety seats are misused in Indiana due to seat not being buckled in as tight as it should be.

"According to statistics I think they're saying about 97 percent of all car seats are installed incorrectly. The safest practice is to keep the children rear facing in their seats," explained program coordinator Darcy Hendershot. "With winter being here I would like to let people know that it is not safe to put their kids in their car seats in their heavy coats because a coat compresses during an accident and it could lead to the shoulder straps being loose enough for the kids to come out of their seats."

Jackets and sweatshirts are the best way to ensure the child's safety during the winter months. Blankets across their laps are also good.

"We see five to 10 families a month, sometimes more. We usually run out of grant money toward the end of the year and have to wait a couple of months," explained Hendershot. "We are busiest when the babies outgrow their infant seat and need to go into the next larger seat."

Hendershot also noted that it is important for families to make sure they send in the registration that comes with their car seat. This will ensure that in the event of a recall the families will be notified.

"I think since education has gotten out there from us more and more people are coming in that may not need a seat. They purchased their own seat and they're just having us check and make sure everything is right," Hendershot said. "I think education is just huge for car seat safety."

Funding will be used not only to purchase new car seats, but to purchase pool noodles, which are used to help level the seat. Rubber shelf liners are also used between leather seats and car seats to prevent sliding.

"This grant is to help us keep it running," Hendershot said. "We aren't going to run out of funds. For some time now we are going to have car seats here to help the low income that aren't able to purchase a new car seat for their child."

Anyone who is interested in participating in the program or receiving more information about car seat safety can visit the Greencastle Police Department located at 600 N. Jackson St. or call 653-3155.

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