Cllr John Edwards, Chair of the West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority (WMFRA), congratulated Sheila and Harry Dennick with a surprise presentation at the end of their milestone 1,000th tour, which today involved pupils from Dorridge Junior School.
The couple, who live in Hockley, have been volunteering since Safeside ran its first trial visits in 2008. Their combined tour tally means that they have led approximately 2,500 children each around the innovative safety centre - that’s ten per cent of all the visitors since Safeside opened.
“This is a phenomenal volunteering achievement by Harry and Sheila," said Rob Hattersley, Safeside Manager. "Both of them are an inspiration to our other guides, especially our younger ones, and are always cheerful, positive and incredibly helpful. Most importantly, their volunteering has had a huge positive impact on the lives of thousands of children. We need more Harry and Sheilas at Safeside, and would love to hear from anyone else interested in supporting our work.”
Safeside at Eastside is a scenario-based experimental learning centre, designed to encourage visitors to think and act safely. It is complemented by a smaller centre, Safeside at Handsworth. The flagship indoor ‘village’ includes a realistic, life-sized street scene, complete with pedestrian crossing, car and double-decker bus, a house, shop, pub, police station and building society. Visitors also encounter a full-sized train carriage and rail track, and water-based scenarios.
Safeside’s programmes play a key role in the prevention and education services provided by West Midlands Fire Service, all designed to make the West Midlands safer. The majority of visitors are primary school Key Stage 2 pupils, but secondary students and others with special educational needs, plus young adults and parents of younger children are also among the target groups.
Councillor Edwards added: “People like Sheila and Harry, who give up their time to help us make the West Midlands safer, make a huge difference to people’s lives. They are an outstanding example of volunteering in action. We hope they inspire many others to follow in their footsteps. They show how rewarding it is to know that you have helped children to stay safe, become more independent and ready for life.”
Harry worked as Head of Security at the former WMFS HQ on Lancaster Circus in Birmingham, from 1982 to 2007. He said: “We love Safeside because it's great to know we are helping children to stay safe and be aware themselves of possible dangers.”
Sheila added: "Safeside is like a family. The staff and volunteers are very helpful and thoughtful, and it’s wonderful to know that we’re all working together to help keep our visitors safe in everyday life.”