Real-World Skills

Children’s Safety Village Celebrating 10 Years

Area students enjoy the Children’s Safety Village in Ashville. In 2019, the village is celebrating 10 years of operation. P-J photo by William Mohan

ASHVILLE – The Children’s Safety Village, one of only 14 safety villages in the United States, is celebrating 10 years of operation.

However, the story behind the interactive village dates back to 1996. That year, members of the Sertoma Club in Jamestown made an excursion to the province of Ontario, Canada to visit the Waterloo Safety Village located in the city of Cambridge.

What they saw was a simulated village which incorporated everyday operations of its real-world counterpart. Among the features of the village were replica buildings paid for by area businesses and organizations, a functioning railroad crossing, traffic lights, pedestrian crosswalks and a one way street. All of them were designed to teach children traffic safety while recreating what they saw every day.

In addition to simulating a municipal setting, the organization taught home safety with youth in mind. The facility hosted its own classes on exercising fire and personal safety in the home.

After returning to Jamestown, the members told then-Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace about bringing the concept to the region.

The Children’s Safety Village Board received a grant from the Transportation Enhancement Program of NYDOT. Pictured in back from left are board member Cathy Abers-Kimball, treasurer Amy Harding, board member John Felton, president Joe Gerace, board members Heather Kerr, Marcia Restivo and Tony Raffa. In front from left are vice-president Doug Fricke, board member Angie Peck, secretary Hyla Brinkley and board member Kristi Hull. Absent is board member Daniel Broadrick. Submitted photo

“We have to do something like this for the children in our community,” Gerace said at the time.

Gerace and the other members then began the process of forming a board of local business people. Eventually, these members would form the Safety Village Board, and the organization gained its not-for profit status on March 8, 2002.

During this time, the village found a home on a 5-acre property next to the Hewes Educational Facility on the Erie-2-Chautauqua Cattaraugus BOCES campus in Ashville.

In addition, 26, 12-feet-by-24-feet concrete slabs were poured for the various buildings. Roads were then formed between the concrete slabs, and various businesses and organizations began to sponsor sites in the village. Among the first were Herman Kent Post 777 of the Jamestown American Legion, the Jamestown Chapter of Credit Unions and AAA.

The village received major backing in 2009 when it was presented $1.76 million in grant funding through the Transportation Enhancement Program.

TEP is a program administered by the New York State Department of Transportation and awards organizations for transit projects based on their cultural, aesthetic, historical and environmental impacts. Organizations and projects funded include bicycle and pedestrian facilities, scenic and historic highways, scenic beautification, preservation of abandoned railroad lines, and water mitigation related to highways.

With the funding, the village was able to build its educational building for safety classes and its storage facility for the buildings.

TEP also allowed the village to start hosting classes in their facility. Originally, only three safety education subjects were taught. They included fire, traffic and bicycle safety.

“That (the TEP grant) allowed us to open up for classes in 2010,” said Executive Director Jessica Dayton. “When we opened we had three classes, now we have nine.”

Today, the village also teaches education safety in parking lots, with guns, poison awareness (Pre-K and Kindergarten), first-aid, personal safety, basic childcare and babysitting.

“Part of our growth is attributed to community outreach,” Dayton said. “Our overall goal of the village is to help prevent unnecessary death and injury in the community.”

The village has operating street lights, a functioning railroad gate, bikes, battery cars, a train called “The Safety Village Express” and a pavilion.

Much of the funding is provided through community outreach.

“We get funding through donations, sponsorships through businesses. We have grants that we operate under and we do fundraisers throughout the year,” Dayton said.

The Safety Village has also received funding from many organizations and businesses in Western New York. To date, 26 organizations have sponsored a miniature building and decorated it to their corporate specifications. Among them are DFT Communications, Wal-Mart, Tim Hortons, Lakeshore Savings Bank, The Resource Center and Chautauqua Opportunities. Dayton said this is all done to assure low cost to the community.

“We’re growing by leaps and bounds.” Dayton said.

According to Dayton, nearly 4,000 students a year utilize the Safety Village and 60 students can be in a class.

Future plans for the organization include increasing outreach to school districts in the Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania regions. The Safety Village is also exploring options to install an interactive floor projector which would involve digitally enhanced games and activities shown from a ceiling enabling student participation.

Registration for babysitting and CPR & First Aid classes in May and June are now available at childrenssafetyvillage.com and at Children’s Safety Village on Facebook.

The Safety Village will also be hosting Open to the Public Days in July and August. Each event involves 3, hour-long sessions. Admission for these events is $10 a child.

For more information contact Jessica Dayton at 338-0171 or email at jessica@childrenssafetyvillage.com. The Children’s Safety Village is located at 2695 Route 394 in Ashville.