A long time safety institution in the Chippewa Falls area is looking for fresh faces.
The Chippewa Falls Safety Patrol, a 90-year-old organization, has been helping keep the areas around schools safe for generations of students and now coordinates the safety patrol of eight area schools.
After moving to completely volunteer and donation funding in 2005 due to budget cuts at the Chippewa Falls Police Department, the patrol has been led in one capacity or another by Ralph Coushman, who after 50 years of involvement in the organization will be stepping away from the group.
Coushman, a retired Chippewa Falls police officer and former Chippewa County sheriff, worked to form the current organization after it was cancelled by the police department, and has served in as president of the Safety Patrol Board and as the coordinator.
The coordinator role was taken over in 2016 by Bruce Stelzner, former Chippewa County highway commissioner, who will also be stepping back from that role and will help seek a new volunteer coordinator.
Both Coushman and Stelzner noted the important role the group has in teaching the kids involved, primarily fifth-grade students, to take responsibility and honor commitments, and both said the institution needs to continue.
“We’re going to be looking for someone from the community to fill that role,” Stelzner said. “We’d like to keep it together as a community function.”
Along with the around 100 students, the principals of the schools and a staff member who works as a safety patrol advisor are also involved.
The funding for the organization is totally through volunteer donations and business sponsors, the money funding several events for the students, including a Safety Patrol Mini-Camp and attending the Safety Patrol Congress in the Wisconsin Dells.
They’ve also funded radar speed signage for areas around schools with particularly hazardous roads.
Coushman said the continued success of the safety patrol — who’ve never had an incident on their roads while patrolling — is part of what has kept him involved for so long.
He said he’s particularly enjoyed seeing the students who have been involved go on to other success over the course of his long tenure with the organization.
“It just makes you feel good about the leadership and what you put into it,” Coushman said. “It’s just a good feeling.”
Stelzner said that additionally, the program builds good citizens.
The students involved sign a contract regarding being on time and doing their duties, and report to their work before normal school starts and after school is over.
“The kids who are involved in it, they are our future,” Stelzner said. “It’s an opportunity to develop the youth.”