Serving Dorchester, Belmont, Thorndale, Thamesford, Putnam, Crampton, Avon, Harrietsville-Mossley and surrounding area

More volunteers needed for neighbourhood safety program

Signpost photo by Wendy Spence
From left, Michael Murphy, Kamala Murphy, Michelle Irvin, Sue Ropp, Karen Hitchen, Olivia Jans and her mother Kim pose for a picture and hold up the enticing cupcakes during the Dorchester Block Parent fifth birthday celebration at the Village Centre plaza.
by Wendy Spence

     Although the first five years of the revamped Dorchester Block Parent program have been successful, chair Kim Jans still hopes that more people sign up to be a “safe stranger.” At the moment, there are 22 Block Parent homes in the community.
     “I saw how easy it was and thought others would as well.”
     Some don’t see it as a priority.
     “It makes our community look safer and feel safer,” Jans explains.
      Residents might think they’re too busy to participate and to make a commitment. Even though we have hectic lifestyles, people simply need to be at home.
     “It’s the only volunteer position you can do from your couch.”
     If there are more signs in a neighbourhood, it might be a deterrent and fewer criminals would be scoping out the houses.
     The group has designed its own personalized pamphlet that they hope to deliver to area businesses to increase interest. They will also drop some off in certain neighbourhoods where they hope to have a Block Parent presence.
     Some have the misconception that they have to be at home during the day to participate, but that’s not the case. The timing is a very individualized thing and depends on a family’s schedule. You only have to put the sign in your window when you want to and are able to attend to the needs of someone who might arrive at your door looking for help. It could be any age group, any time of day, not just children.
     Potential Block Parent families are required to fill out an application. Members of the household that are 12 and over need to get a police check (if they don’t already have one), and a visit is made to ensure the family’s home environment is a safe one. Block Parent families put a sign in their window when they are available to help out people of all ages and make sure they have a safe place to go if they are lost, injured, being bullied or are concerned about a stranger bothering them. If residents are busy or entertaining, they don’t have to put their sign in their window; it’s at their discretion. In essence, it doesn’t necessarily require any time commitment once a family is set up, unless someone comes to their door needing help. Even if someone arrives at your door, you are not obligated to open the door or let them in if you don’t feel comfortable or you’re feeling threatened.
     “You’re always in control of the situation.”
     Rural residents can put a permanent sticker on their mailbox and put a sign in their window when they’re available to help people if the need arises.
     For more information, to volunteer or to sign up, visit the Facebook page (Dorchester Block Parent), the website, or call 519-268-1071.
     An evening police check will be held in the fall to help accommodate busy daytime and work schedules. The date will be announced in the near future.
     Dorchester Block Parent is hoping to increase awareness and visibility for the program by providing a craft, such as safety-related colouring pages, at library storytimes and Ontario Early Years sessions at the arena, as well as by talking to local students at schools.
     There are eight people on the block parent board right now, and Jans welcomes more help, especially in the areas of social media and education. She hopes the program grows until there are at least two Block Parent homes on every street.
     “You’re almost tag teaming with your neighbours,” explains Jans.
     She hopes the next year is one of growth for the program.
     “It’s bringing the community together, working together to keep it safe.”

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