Program remains focused on keeping kids safe


Smiles, dancing, days of the week, giggles and wiggles, weather and vowels can only mean one thing. Summer reading is back! It’s been such a fun time seeing familiar faces this summer at our local libraries as part of our Schiffel’s Safety Scholars summer reading program. Our program began in 2020 (if you can believe that), and we partner with our local libraries to bring safety-themed messages to our kids and support our libraries in whatever way best suits them. We are back for the fourth year in a row and can I tell you how much I absolutely love this time of the year?

We kicked off our program this year by joining Carlos Crawford, our Delaware County public defender, at the Unity Community Center. Together, Carlos and I teamed up with an important message about gun safety. We talked a little bit about guns with the kids, and not to my surprise, many of them had been around guns and were able to talk about how to safely store a gun. Some were able to even to tell us the correct action to take if they should come across a gun — which is not to touch it and to tell an adult. After that discussion, we read a book on gun safety, and then played a few rounds of charades. The kids each wrote down a charade and then drew one to act out. My favorite was the charade — “side eye.” Our girl Coco, a therapy dog that works with first responders Delaware County, and her mom, Carla, joined us too.

Our summer reading travels also took us to the Main Branch of our Delaware County District Library in downtown Delaware. We got to sing and dance with Mr. George again, and about 30 of my pint-size friends also got to meet Maverick and Officer Graham from the Genoa Township Police Department. Maverick is a therapy dog that works with our kids at school. We also read a book written by Ohio’s own LeBron James.

Next on the Schiffel Safety Scholars tour, we headed to the Sunbury Community Library with a special message about Internet Safety. In our story, the main character meets someone online and he pretends to be someone else. Then, much to every parent’s horror, the main character agrees to meet his new friend from the internet, but as it turns out, luckily this friend was his brother! I was thankful to steal just a few minutes of these kids’ summer and share this message with them. We also got to enjoy some belly rubs and ear scratches with therapy dog Otto and Delaware County Sheriff Deputy Keith Cox. The cutest thing happened too — Otto gave us snorts while he was patiently waiting for his turn to get all the attention.

We also spent time with about 60 little friends at the Powell Branch of our county library where we got to read books about summer. Rocky, also a therapy dog in our local schools, and Officer Jason Berner with the Genoa Township Police Department came to spend time with our kids, too. You know what the biggest hit was though? Rocky’s personalized cards (like baseball cards) that he passed out.

We rounded out our summer stops at the Wornstaff Memorial Library in Ashley. If you haven’t been to this gem in Delaware County, you need to go and take your kids! The Children’s Librarian at Wornstaff Megan Johnson is one of the most amazing and kid-minded focused people I have ever met. Everything she does and plans for her library kids is done with such passion and excitement for these kids. This summer their theme is adventure, and Indiana J (a play off of Indiana Jones) joins the kids during their summer reading program (it’s Megan’s dad dressed up — how fun is that)! All around the library, too, are “artifacts” from familiar kids books for the kids to search for. For example, if you go up there you might see the rose from Beauty and the Beast.

It’s always my honor to spend time with our kids in our community. Our Schiffel’s Safety Scholars program is funded by monies seized from drug traffickers — it brings me great joy to reinvest this money back into our community with our kids. In addition to traveling to the libraries during the summer, we also give safety-themed books to program participants at some of our library partners; for our other library partners, we provide rewards.

One last bit of exciting news — if you are following efforts by our local leaders to pass a law criminalizing sextortion (see my column from June) … the bill was passed out of the Ohio House unanimously! It is now on to our Ohio Senate, where I pray it has the same unanimous support once it is up for a vote.

Melissa A. Schiffel is the Delaware County prosecutor.

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