Halloween Howl making a difference

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 30, 2001

As the four-hour Natchez Aldermen meeting was winding down, Eva Dunkley took the podium.

&uot;I never thought I’d have to thank Chief (Willie) Huff,&uot; Dunkley said.

Most on hand began laughing a bit at the comic relief in what had been a long, serious meeting.

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Huff, the Natchez police chief, began grasping his heart, feigning a heart attack as Dunkley spoke. Both Dunkley’s ribbing and Huff’s reaction seemed in jest.

Dunkley continued.

&uot;But my husband and I have a new 20-month-old baby &uot;

The laughter ceased as those present tried to figure out where Dunkley’s sentence is going.

&uot;… And I want to thank the police for their child seat program,&uot; she said.

Huff with a shocked look on his face, laughed and said, &uot;I thought you were going to thank me for the baby.&uot;

The conversation may have sparked some much-need laughter at the end of the long meeting, but Dunkley’s message is a good one.

The car seat program she spoke about is through the Natchez Police Department.

Using money raised by the Halloween Howl event last October, the police department purchased about 40 new car seats. Natchez Regional Medical Center CEO Jack Houghton dreamed up the event to help limit the number of toddlers who wind up in the emergency room after traffic accidents.

The intent of the program isn’t to simply give away car seats, but to educate parents about the importance of using car seats properly.

As part of that process, the department will replace car seats that are broken, have been recalled or simply aren’t the appropriate type for the size child using it.

Angie Brown, assistant coordinator for traffic grants with the city, helps facilitate the grant.

&uot;If anything is wrong with the car seat, I can replace it,&uot; she said.

Brown said she’s available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to examine car seats for parents and ensure proper use. Her office is located in the Natchez Municipal Building at 233 D’Evereux Drive. Interested parents can either come by her office to have their car seats checked or call 445-7538 with any questions.

Brown said the program has been a great success.

&uot;It’s worked out really well,&uot; Brown said. &uot;I’ve probably checked about 20 car seats in the last three months. That’s compared to about three car seats in the three months prior, so it’s really catching on.

&uot;I’m getting a lot of calls just to get general information about car seats.&uot;

Brown said Mississippi law requires children from birth to 8-years-old to be restrained in vehicles. Four and under must be in car seats, she said.

&uot;The biggest problem is misuse,&uot; Brown said. &uot;People don’t know how to install the car seats. And it’s not always their fault, some of the instructions can be confusing. And some car seats fit better in certain positions. Cars are all made different.

&uot;The secret is getting a good, tight fit,&uot; she said, adding the program is increasing awareness in the community.

&uot;Just buckle up,&uot; she said. &uot;There’s too much to lose. And that goes for adults too. Seat belts and car seats save lives.&uot;

Kevin Cooper is managing editor of The Democrat. He can be reached at (601) 445-3541 or by e-mail to kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.