Earlier this week I got to spend an evening at the Sunbury Community Library talking to kids about safety and introducing them to some very important community partners from the Sunbury Police Department — Sgt. Mark Mead with K-9 Officer Ace and School Resource Officer Justin Whiteside. We were there to help promote Schiffel’s Safety Scholars — our summer reading program, contests, and share safety messages with our kids. Now honestly, K-9 Officer Ace was the draw and the hit of the evening. We got to see him track outside for a treat and sniff out some bad evidence, too. A few of the kids were even able to play ball with Ace. We also got to talk about important safety topics like internet safety, why drugs and alcohol are bad, and some police and fire tips. At the end, the kids signed our drug free pledge and were awarded the coveted drug-free pop-it (along with post-its, pop-its are on my list of “why didn’t I invent that”). Evenings like this are sometimes just what your county prosecutor needs — a reminder of all the good in the world and what’s at stake — our future generations.
I am excited to bring Schiffel’s Safety Scholars back for its second year, and this year we’ve been able to add and partner with the Unity Community Center as well as continuing our partnerships with the Wornstaff Library in Ashley and our Delaware County District Libraries, too. Our program has various books with safety themes focusing on not using drugs/ alcohol, stranger danger, consent and internet safety. The best part? It’s all brought to our community without using any taxpayer funds! The program, contests, and prizes are funded using money seized from drug traffickers in our community. I love that irony!
An adult commented to me recently that the first time they remember being talked to about drugs is when they were in middle school and that they couldn’t believe we were talking to kids about drugs and alcohol so young. I get it! But, we also didn’t have kids innocently bringing marijuana laced gummies to school 30 years ago because the sweet child wanted to share candy with his or her classmates. We also didn’t have kids taking pills from other kids and those pills being laced with fentanyl. So yes, it is never too early to have those conversations with your kids. Don’t take candy from someone you don’t know. Don’t take medicine or pills unless given to you by a doctor or a trusted adult. I am glad to offer other safety-themed books to help parents have some of those necessary conversations with their young children.
So far we’ve traveled to the Ostrander, Powell, Orange and Sunbury library locations. Delaware County’s First Responder Therapy Dog CoCo has been able to come with us to these locations, too. While she gets belly rubs and ear scratches, the kids learn about the wonderful work therapy dogs do in our community and also dog safety! If you haven’t seen us yet, we still have a few more opportunities to meet you as we travel to Wornstaff, Delaware and the Unity Community Center in the upcoming weeks. A special thank you to Coco for all she does for our first responders, including this prosecutor who loves her puppy kisses!
As we reflected on the success of our inaugural program last year, as always, there was the itch to do more and a fear of finding appropriate books for our community for the next year. You may be shocked to know that there are not a lot of great books for kids out there about not using drugs or alcohol. Even this mama has been known to eye roll at some of the story lines we’ve stumbled upon.
So, we decided to invite our kids to help us! We have two contests this summer — one where kids can write their own safety-themed book, and the other contest is to design a billboard with a safety theme message about drugs and alcohol. What better way to get the message across than a message created by kids for kids! Information about these contests is available at any library location in Delaware County and on our Facebook page, too. If you can’t find it, call us at 740-833-2690 and we will get you set up with all you need. At the end of summer, we will announce the winners and our authors will see their book come to life as we publish it, and our artists will see their work on a billboard in the county.
I hope to see you soon. Until then, think safety, think summer, think Schiffel’s Safety Scholars, and get your contest submissions in!
Melissa A. Schiffel is Delaware County prosecutor.