The North Carolina Coalition of the Year award is based on the coalition’s positive outcomes of the child passenger safety program, medication safety programs and maintaining partnerships.
“It was a huge surprise,” Injury Prevention Program coordinator at ECU Health Medical Center Ellen Walston said. “Lisa Blackmon with Safe Kids NC said our social media really was the catalyst for winning the award. We post multiple times a week on our risk areas in injury prevention, and it’s just really important to use those quick soundbites to get the word out.”
Preventable injuries are the number one cause of death in kids in the United States, according to Safe Kids. That’s why Safe Kids Pitt County works to prevent injuries in children and adults through simple tips and safety checks. The Safe Kids Pitt County team strives every day to keep kids in eastern North Carolina safe and healthy and to meet ECU Health’s mission of improving the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.
A “hallmark” program
Walston called the child passenger safety program the hallmark of the coalition’s work. The program began in the early 2000s and, along with pop-up opportunities for car seat inspections, Safe Kids Pitt County has a permanent checking station. The permanent station is located at the Winterville Fire Department and is available on the third Friday of each month, 1:30-4:30 p.m.
“To me that parent’s expression of appreciation is priceless,” Walston said. “When they walk in, they just have that look of ‘I don’t know how in the world to put this seat together. Will you please help me?’ Then when they leave, you ask them ‘Are you confident in being able to put this seat in yourself?’ You just see that anxiety just melt away. That to me is the most comfort, knowing that we’ve made a difference.”
More than half of car seats are not used or installed correctly, according to Safe Kids. Correctly used child safety seats can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent.
The child passenger safety program also covers free child safety seat checks when someone has received a violation, citation or ticket. The child and parent will receive one-on-one education to help ensure correct car seat installation, and the program also offers hot car safety information sessions, as well. For more information on this program or general car seat inspections, contact Walston at 252-847-8532.
Medication safety was another key driver for the award, and Operation Medicine Drop is an event that helps the public dispose of expired, unused or unwanted prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications. The event serves to protect children, our community and the environment. Medicines are the leading cause of child poisoning, and proper disposal of medications can largely prevent them from happening. The valuable education sessions offered throughout the community on medication safety help to reduce unintentional poisoning from prescription medications, which is on the rise in North Carolina.
Walston said the opportunity to connect with families and children is vital to the program’s success.
“We have a lot of anecdotal affirmation from children on this kind of education session,” Walston said. “I will see children in the store and they’ll say, ‘Miss Ellen, you came to my school and talked about fire safety’ or ‘You were at the park in Winterville and taught us about medication safety.’ Just making those contacts is so important, we never know when we’re planting that seed. Those children can go home and tell their siblings and tell their families what they’ve learned.”
Working with a small internal team makes it crucial to have great partnerships, Walston said. Safe Kids Pitt County primarily partners with Martin-Pitt Partnership for Children, ECU’s TEDI BEAR Children’s Advocacy Center and the Pitt County Health Department. Other partners include Greenville Fire Rescue, Winterville Fire Rescue, Pitt County Sheriff’s Department and Greenville Police Department.
“We’re so blessed with partnerships. I cannot do this work alone,” Walston said. “I just enlist partners, I’ve learned to delegate, I ask for help when I need it. We’re a small team but mighty and we get a lot done.”
Walston also shared appreciation for ECU Health Medical Center, the lead agency for the Safe Kids Pitt County coalition.
“I really want to emphasize a big thanks to ECU Health Medical Center for being here for us since 1995,” Walston said. “They provide all the technical support for me to be in this role – my office, the hours that I designate. We’re really blessed. A lot of hospitals are lead agencies but [other coalitions] don’t get the same support that I’ve received from the hospital.”
This is the second time Safe Kids Pitt County has received North Carolina Coalition of the year, first taking home the award in 2010. Other past recognitions include Safe Kids NC Outstanding Outreach Initiative and NC Child Passenger Safety Outreach Program of the Year award in 2016, as well as Walston earning Coordinator of the Year in 2013.
Learn more about Safe Kids Worldwide here.