Written by: Melanie Benson, volunteer
Ursula Allen is no stranger to the value and impact of service to the community. Over her 15-year tenure as the Director of the Adventurer Club children’s group at the Metropolitan Seventh-day Adventist Church (Metro) in Hyattsville, Maryland, she has led a variety of neighborhood outreach events.
After learning about opportunities with the Red Cross through fellow church leaders, Metro's first Red Cross event, a Community Safety Day, took place on February 18 of this year. Safety Day was full of events, not only for Ursula's youth group, but also for their families and church neighbors. Kids between the ages of 4-9 years old learned about fire safety and got to explore a fire truck up close. After learning and practicing how to exit a building, the Adventurers received their Fire Safety training award.
The Adventurers, along with older kids, also learned tips and tools to prepare for emergencies through the Red Cross Pillowcase Project. While encouraging kids' creativity by decorating their pillowcases, the Project taught the kids to stay safe in an emergency and to feel empowered through preparedness. Students were encouraged to share what they learned with family and friends, and to bring their new skills and pillowcase kits home.
While the children were learning safety skills, the adults also had opportunities to learn CPR training and first aid basics. Many in Metro's congregation set out, donning Red Cross vests, to install smoke detectors in neighborhood homes as part of the Red Cross' nationwide initiative to save lives, reduce injuries, and cut down on losses from home fires. Ursula emphasized the importance of this effort in advancing Metro's focus on ministry within the community. She shared an example of how Safety Day had a positive ripple effect. During the smoke detector installation sessions, she met an elderly gentleman who was on dialysis. Ursula has since returned to visit him, bringing warm meals, and introducing him to other church members.
Ursula sees the Community Safety Day as a resounding success with 65 participants, and many requests from parishioners to do it again. She notes that during Safety Day, her team was only able to reach about a quarter of the neighborhood, indicating how much more outreach is needed just in their immediate environs. She urges others to not shy away from the possibility of hosting or participating in such events, because by educating people and strengthening ties within their immediate neighborhood, communities become stronger, safer, and more self-reliant.
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