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Rotten economy boosts demand for free Safe Kids safety products

POSTED: February 19, 2009 11:55 p.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Spout Springs Elementary School student Ian Oliver gets a new bicycle helmet from Rodney Watts of the Hall County Sheriff's Office during Thursday's Gainesville/Hall County Safe Kids program at the school.

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The coordinator of Safe Kids of Gainesville-Hall County used to get a couple of calls a week from parents asking about free child car seats.

That was before rising unemployment created more demand for car seats, bike helmets and other safety gear the group provides to parents at no charge.

“I’ve gone from a couple of calls a week to seven or eight,” Safe Kids Coalition Coordinator Kim Martin said.

“They want their children to be safe, but if they’ve lost their job, they look for an agency that can help them, and of course we’re glad to do it.”

Martin said Safe Kids, which spends about $100,000 on safety equipment each year, has been spared from any recession-related cuts. Safe Kids of Gainesville-Hall County is funded through the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Foundation’s Healthy Journey Campaigns, a combination of fundraising and employee giving.

The group partners with Gainesville and Hall County’s public safety agencies to promote many of its programs.

“The board of directors has been very supportive of Safe Kids for 17 years now,” Martin said. “There’s such a need in the community for this program that they want it to continue.”

Martin said if demand continues to rise, she may have to ask for more funds in the next budget year, which begins in October.

“Since the drop in the economy, we’ve had an increase in calls from people requesting bike helmets and car seats and smoke detectors,” Martin said.

On Thursday, Safe Kids gave out 90 bicycle helmets to second-graders at Spout Springs Elementary. Each year the group gives out 3,000 bike helmets, which it purchases for about $7 each wholesale; retail prices start at about $10.

The group gives out between 350 and 400 child car seats each year.

While anyone can get a free bike helmet, car seat recipients must be eligible for Medicaid or Peach Care to participate in the car seat program, Martin said.



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