Volunteer walks the walk when it comes to kids’ safety

Maj. Michael Spannaus and Spc. Daevon Weathers give reflectors to elementary school students before they get on the school bus.

Numerous school children wait for the school buses at Newman Village bus stop on Clay Kaserne early in the mornings. The first round of buses takes the high and middle schoolers to Hainerberg, and the second round is for the elementary school kids. With so many children around, safety is an issue. Sharleen Tornabell, a volunteer crossing guard who has been living on Clay Kaserne since November 2015, has set her heart on keeping those kids safe.

Her commitment started out right at the beginning of her time in Wiesbaden when she walked her own kids to the bus stop and noticed that cars passed the buses and went too fast. She also observed some close calls with the garbage trucks and the trucks from the Department of Public Works.

“In the morning, the Soldiers get off, and it’s very busy traffic. So, I just started with a vest,” Tornabell said. She went out on her own to make the bus stop a safer place for school children. She also talked to the military police about safety training and obtained permission for her volunteer hours at Army Community Service.

In some way, I created my own special position, she said.

Her passion for safety, however, was not new. Back in Florida, Tornabell, who has accompanied her Soldier husband all over the world, worked with the sheriff’s office on general safety and bike safety.

Tornabell will be leaving Wiesbaden in June, and calls on the parents of the school children to volunteer as crossing guards. If they walk their children to the bus stop, it would be great if they could stay a little longer making sure all the kids got on the bus safely, Tornabell said, maybe just once or twice a week.

It is also important to have an adult around for emergencies. When the parents are not at home, or a child has become sick, has been hurt or has fallen, Tornabell helped and consoled, or called the parents or the school. At other times, elementary school kids did not have school, but still came to the bus stop. In this case, she made sure they got back home safely.

Tornabell also organized the “no profanity” signs at the bus stop. Her presence there in combination with the signs has a positive effect on the kids, she said. One day, some little girls were using bad language, and a boy reacted to it and said: “‘Have you read the signs? We don’t talk like that out here. You’re going to have to deal with the bus lady over there’,” Tornabell said, “So, I feel that’s a huge thing.”

On school days, she has been out at the bus stop with the kids every morning and every afternoon since the start of the school year in 2016. “My favorite thing is seeing them smile knowing that they’re learning something about being safe,” Tornabell said. By now, she has learned most of the names, and the children trust her. She knows about spelling tests, the new dog, a new friend or other important incidents in the children’s lives.

Her husband, Lt. Col. Ernest Tornabell IV, helps her as often as possible, often several times a week. “He is just as passionate and supporting me,” Tornabell said.
On March 20, Tornabell handed out safety gear to the elementary school kids. “Over the last two years, I have been thinking how I can give them something about safety,” she said. She had been collecting reflectors, reflective wrist belts, slap bracelets and belts among other things to hand out to the kids to remind them to always stay safe.

Together with her husband; Spc. Daevon Weathers, an MP; her neighbor Maj. Michael Spannaus, a German Soldier; and Frank Turner, her neighbor and retired lieutenant colonel; she handed out the safety gear. It was a success, she said, the kids have been so happy.

Interested in volunteering?
Check out the Volunteer Management Information System at www.myarmyonesource.com, or contact Mary Cheney (mary.k.cheney.civ@mail.mil).