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Letters to the Editors

Sharing the task of keeping kids safe

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 12, 2001

Re: Traumatic episode has a happy ending, Aug. 29.

Linda Duty should be upset with Pinellas County school officials. Her son, Justin, was in great potential danger because a lax bus driver didn't check the red wristband Justin was wearing to assure he would ride the proper bus. Then the bus driver let him get off at the wrong stop resulting in the 6-year-old boy's being totally lost. Because of such carelessness, Justin could have been the victim of a pervert, or worse.

Parents can instruct their children not to talk to strangers or get in their cars, but reason is only a feeble ray in a kid, and people can entice kids through reassuring sweet talk. Luckily, Justin got in the car of a fine man who had kindness of heart.

Perils are prevalent in our society nowadays, and to avoid catastrophe, schools must instruct their employees more thoroughly. Kids should be instructed when they are lost to reveal their plight at the nearest business establishment. A 6-year-old away from home should have a few quarters on hand and phone numbers he can dial for help at a public phone booth.
-- Robert B. Fleming, St. Petersburg

Teach kids to handle emergencies

Re: Traumatic episode has a happy ending.

Primrose 5-8672: a telephone number I still remember after nearly half a century. My dear mother taught this basic survival skill to me before I toddled off to kindergarten. She also taught me colors, how to write my name and how to recite my address even though my big brother guarded me along the way to and from school each day.

It is a sad commentary on our times that a mother now blames the school for placing her child on the wrong bus when, in fact, she stated that her 6-year-old son in the first grade "did not know his address or phone number." Did he not know his colors either? Now the mother says, "I will do whatever I have to do to see to his safety, because the school failed to do it."

But the mother sent her son out into the wide world unaccompanied by even the most essential knowledge -- his address and phone number. I think she should look inward before maligning the school.
-- Donna Marie Kostreva, St. Petersburg

Toys will be ready and on the shelves

Re: State pulls Toy Shop out of yule giveaway, Aug. 29.

It's September. In less than three months, the Toy Shop is supposed to distribute toys. And the Department of Children and Families has decided now not to help out with their lists of deserving but needy families? Wasn't last Christmas nine months ago? Why were the "complaints" kept such a secret? It seems that if one needs a problem rectified, one goes to the source -- and in this case, that would be the Toy Shop -- and in a timely manner. Nine months is not a timely manner... and especially when the DCF knows the Toy Shop is under a deadline.

Toys that are worked on to be distributed are seen by many, many pairs of eyes, and there is plenty of time to "pull" any that aren't up to snuff. As one of the volunteers who has stocked the shelves at the distribution center on the days of distribution, as a further "check," there are lots of us who see those toys and always reject any that may not be up to the standards that the Toy Shop has set.

As far as the DCF saying it doesn't want to help the Toy Shop anymore because we give out "used" toys, they've known that for years. Why take issue with that now? And they've been told over and over that every child gets a new toy, a new book and a new stuffed animal, as well as refurbished toys. When some of the volunteers get through working on them, they look almost new.

Instead of casting a shadow on the Christmas Toy Shop for recycling previously owned toys, give them credit for thinking enough of children who may not have a Christmas by "working" to see that they do. All of us say we're not really working, because we're enjoying what we're doing. Just because the children we serve receive once-loved and played-with toys doesn't make them second-class citizens. Also, we've seen children bring their toys in and wistfully say goodbye to them but want another child to have the same fun with them that they had! That's the spirit of Christmas!

DCF, where is your heart? What is Christmas all about if it's not for sharing? And if you won't help us with lists of names, what are we to do? The toys are waiting to go, and the children are waiting to receive.
-- JoAnn C. Fisher, Christmas Toy Shop volunteer, St. Petersburg

Volunteer spirit fuels Toy Shop

Re: Christmas toy shop.

The Christmas Toy Shop is one of our city's vital organizations with devoted volunteers working year-round repairing donated toys. Generous-hearted citizens bring in every type of toy one can imagine, some needing repairs, paint, mechanical parts, some new, some almost new. Workers are heard to exclaim, "Oh, look in this box, here's a red wheel that will just complete that red car that's been on the shelf for some time."

This fellowship of the enthusiastic volunteers is indeed contagious with Ardith Rutland as the shop's manager. To this former volunteer, a washer of toys, this experience comes to mind: At 8:30 one evening, some years ago, our telephone rang with Ardith asking, "Did you wash the animals for Noah's ark this morning?" "No, the bag was not tied to the ark, I'll wash them when they come through," replied this volunteer. This event is just one example of the concern and knowledge Ardith has for the assembling of a complete toy in the shop's inventory.

Devoted, talented volunteers check toy catalog pictures to be doubly sure all pieces and accessories are complete before packaging the toy in a plastic bag. Workers paint, wash, sort, sew, assemble mechanical toys, etc.. They do all this and much, much more. TLC is expended to create attractive toys for distribution time.

I am sure many people recall working at distribution at the South Pole Christmas. Our St. Petersburg community is surely kinder and richer in sharing and giving to others, we are indeed fortunate in having such a historic working organization.
-- Eleanor Speakman, St. Petersburg

School transportation up to parents, too

Re: Buses drive up cost of school choice, Aug. 29.

I was raised in New Jersey. We always had school choice! If a parent chose a school that we were not zoned for, then the parent had to get the child to that school. It was not up to the school system to bus the children who chose to be in a different school than the one for which they were zoned.

These school dollars should be going toward our children's education and hiring more teachers, not to transport students who choose to go to another school rather than the one in which they belong.

Many years ago, my parents paid for my sister and me to get to school. There were enough kids who were going to the same zoned school, but we were all just under the mileage to be bused. All the parents paid for a bus to pick us all up and bring us home.

It is time that parents learn to take care of their children and not leave it up to others to do it for them.
-- D.L. Seubert, Pinellas Park

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