Flight nurse Anthony Ellis and his crew aboard a Mercy air medic helicopter landed at Modestos Well Community Fellowship Church Sunday, looking to interact with residents in a nonemergency situation.
We get to talk to people, hoping they never have to take a ride on one of these things, Ellis said as children and their parents took their turn exploring the helicopter, which flies out of Memorial Medical Center in Modesto.
The helicopter was just one of the features at the second annual Well Care for Kids event, which focuses on child safety, wellness and education. Pastor Randy Balling said the goal is to bring people together in an effort to improve the community.
When Balling moved from the Southern California to Modesto four years ago, he said, many asked him why he had chosen the city. He soon learned that Modesto had bad rap for a high crime rate and high unemployment.
At the same time, I felt the city had an unfair image, the pastor said. I came here and I met plenty of great people.
So, he wanted to help create an annual event that would show others how a community can come together and help each other. Last years event attracted about 1,000 attendees. This year, the pastor was expecting more.
I hope it gets bigger and bigger each year, and we impact more and more lives, Balling said.
A few hundred had already shown up when the event started Sunday afternoon at the church on Claus Road, on east edge of town between Briggsmore and Floyd avenues.
Among the attendees was Gerardo Serrano of Modesto, his son, Titus, and his daughters, Sezria and Ani. Titus, 6, was one of a few hundred children who received free haircuts provided by the Paul Mitchell hair styling school in Modesto.
Jamie Brazil of the school said they provide this free service to charities and other community events in an effort to give back. Students from the school, who are members of the Be Nice or Else Club, offered the children haircuts, braiding and manicures.
Serrano watched his son get a trim Sunday from the Paul Mitchell students, and he was grateful that his children got to see so many people at the event giving back to their community.
I think its amazing that these people would go out of their way and provide this service, Serrano said.
Children and their families were offered free fingerprinting and identification kits, child safety seat inspections, math tutoring, CPR information and drug awareness information. But those were only a few among a variety of other informational booths at the event.
There were childrens activities that included an obstacle course, inflatable bounce houses, face painting and a petting zoo. Everything was free, and food was available for a suggested $1 donation.
Balling said more than 60 church members volunteered to help put together the event, but it wasnt just for church members. The entire public was invited, and volunteers handed out fliers throughout the city.
Janet Garvin, a Modesto City Schools bus driver for 25 years, demonstrated all the safety features on one of the districts school buses. It has seat belts for every child on board, along with three built-in cameras to monitor the children inside and one camera focused on the road in front.
The cameras capture everything, even when a woman heading into a pharmacy cut off Garvins bus on its way to Modesto High School. The camera can help authorities identify the vehicle and ultimately the driver.
While parents are somewhat surprised to learn about the safety features on the bus, they were amazed when they learn from Garvin about all the rules involved in driving children to school.
They dont even know about all the rules that the bus drivers have to follow, Garvin said as she demonstrated how she walks some children off the bus and safely across the street.
Public safety agencies also demonstrated their vehicles and equipment at the event Sunday.
Joel von Brostel works with the Modesto City Schools public safety Regional Occupational Program, designed to help prepare students interested in becoming firefighters, police officers or emergency medical technicians.
Were introducing these kids to their careers, von Brostel said about the program.
On Sunday, children such as 7-year-old Matthew Nelson took their turn sitting in the driver seat of a decommissioned fire engine donated to the ROP program by the Modesto Regional Fire Authority and on display at the safety event.
The authority had other fire engines displayed at the event, with firefighters interacting with children and their families.
Theres not much time to become acquainted during a rescue situation, so community safety events help children become more comfortable with emergency responders.
So, the children are not afraid of firefighters when they come breaking down their door, von Brostel said.