Newton County Fire Service Fire Safety Educator Cydnie Taylor-Ridling introduces Dusty the Dragon to Andy Moxley, HR generalist with SRG Global. The manufacturer donated funds for the purchase of the puppet which will be used in schools and day care facilities to teach children the dos and don'ts of fire safety. - Staff photo by Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
COVINGTON -- The Newton County Fire Service has a new spokesman on their team. He looks a little different from the rest of the firemen as he's purple and green and blows big puffs of smoke from his nose, but he promises to quickly become the favorite firefighter among the younger set.
Thanks to Covington manufacturer SRG Global, Dusty the Dragon will soon be making the rounds of Newton County's elementary schools and day care centers, teaching youngsters the dos and don'ts of fire safety.
Last year, NCFS taught approximately 10,000 youngsters through their fire safety education program and Fire Safety Educator Cydnie Taylor-Ridling estimates they've contacted more than half that many this year. She's looking forward to a little assistance from Dusty who is guaranteed to be an attention grabber.
"We'll be delivering the same message, but just in a different form of delivery," Taylor-Ridling said, adding that the puppet comes complete with it's own audio program for both puppet and puppeteer.
Her message includes alerting children to always knowing two ways out of a room; having a family escape plan; crawling low under smoke; testing smoke alarms to make sure they are working; and explaining what a smoke alarm is and how it works.
SRG Global has kindly purchased Dusty and his smoke, around a $600 donation, so that he will be available to the children of Newton County.
"Being a manufacturer, safety is at the forefront of everything we do here," said Elizabeth Van Tassell, human resources manager. "It's a top priority and anything we can do to partner with the education system and transfer it to kids and family, we want to do."
Newton County Fire Service Chief Kevin O'Brien thanked SRG, pointing out that the donation came about simply because a fire service employee asked them if they'd help.
"We approached them about helping our education department and they were more than gracious in helping us out," he said. "We're always passionate about partnering with different manufacturers and community partnerships. We've been doing fire extinguisher classes for SRG Global for around five years. It's a free service to them for us to come out and train their employees in the use of fire extinguishers. Now, we're in the process of discussing additional training opportunities for them."
HR Generalist Andy Moxley said he sees the mutual support between the company and the fire service as being beneficial all the way around.
"As a token of our appreciation for all their services and their help, it's like a three-pronged thing. We want to help them, but they are also helping us and the community with that investment. It really works out for everybody," he pointed out.
SRG Global is community-minded and helps in a variety of areas throughout the year. Included on their list of benevolences are the B.C. Crowell Scholarship Fund, suppers for Newton County High School students, a recycling program which features incentives to employees who recycle, a Miracle League sponsorship, Operation Backpack at Middle Ridge Elementary School, major fundraising for Relay for Life, and donations of food items to Merryvale Assisted Living.