|11/15/2021 1:39:00 PM|
Traffic Control at Englewood Elementary
Mark Patterson directs traffic to help keep the students safe.
John Marr “ Officer Friendly” poses with his therapy dog Vinca.
By Alison PosnerMorning routines aren’t always smooth sailing for families with kids – getting kids ready, dressed, gathering homework, and arriving on time at the school campus can be stressful. Two volunteers are doing their part to ease the morning pressures.
Mark Patterson and John Marr are responsible for monitoring the flow of traffic and helping the walkers cross the streets safely during drop-off and pick-up at Englewood Elementary School.
Both Patterson and Marr arrive promptly at 8:10 a.m. Marr is joined by his therapy dog and faithful companion, Vinca, who sits nearby. They gear up in bright yellow vests; Vinca has her working vest, too, and head to their designated areas. Marr, who stands at one end of the school’s roundabout, monitors the primary car rider for grades kindergarten through second grade. Patterson, who is situated just outside the school parking lot, is at the intersection of Perry Street and McCall Road. Both do their part to promote road safety.
At the end of the school day, they return to their areas ready for round two.
The two stepped up to help in 2019 when issues arose concerning student safety around the parking lot. One concern was that parents were avoiding the designated pick-up zones when driving their kids to school, and instead, they dropped their kids off in the school parking lot to avoid long lines. This created congestion and put students who were walking through the parking lot at risk.
“It was chaos,” recalls Marr. “People weren’t looking out for pedestrians or other vehicles and bicycles. A parent even got struck by a car after walking their kid to school.”
“It was pretty obvious that something had to be changed,” he added.
With help from the principal and resource officer on campus, the two began handing out yellow slips letting drivers know that they must either park and drop their kids off, or navigate through the car rider line. Teachers and staff were helping around the school, but there wasn’t anyone off school property to enforce school zone regulations. Some parents were getting frustrated, and even irate, at times. That’s when they decided to take charge and ensure better protocols.
At his corner, Marr always has a smile as he greets passersby. “Officer Friendly” as many refer to him, has gotten to know the neighbors, people walking their dogs and cyclists who cross at his intersection daily. He casually waves to everyone and most respond with a wave back. He refers to himself as a ‘glorified traffic guard.’ He said the smiles from the kids are the best part of his day.
Marr says with a chuckle, “It always makes it more worthwhile when you see a little sister or brother in their car seats waving both hands and a foot”.
But there is an ulterior motive to his friendly wave. “When they wave back, I know their hand isn’t holding a cell phone,” he said. “People get distracted easily.” He admits that some parents need a gentle reminder about staying off their phones when traversing the school zone.
He’s there to stress the importance of exercising caution when entering and exiting school grounds. “Sometimes they aren’t looking out for pedestrians and other vehicles or even bicycles,” said Marr. “I’ve almost been run over. I’ve had people run over this cone right where I’m standing.”
Patterson’s duties are a bit more challenging. He’s at a main intersection where he directs drivers from all directions while trying to keep the lines moving consistently and avoiding backups, which can overflow onto Dearborn Street.
“I have to pay attention because I have kids coming this way and that way,” he says as he flings his arms up, “so as I’m watching the cars, I’m also watching where the kids are coming from and making sure the parents are stopping.”
He feels good knowing that the parents have trust in him.
“It’s a comfort knowing that the parents trust me to keep their kids safe,” says Patterson. “We both just want to help make the school a safer place for everyone.”
In 2019, they were both honored with the Englewood Elementary School’s Volunteer of the Year Award. The award is given to those who dedicate their time at the school campus.
The following school year, Patterson took a leave of absence for part of the semester from his volunteer position because his kids were homeschooled. Marr carried on and at the end of the year was chosen to receive the Doodad Award, a similar award given for his help around campus.
The principal at the time, Mark Grossenbacher, and Officer Arnold presented Marr with the award and T-shirt.
Patterson and Marr say, that while they appreciate the recognition, their reason for helping is not about that. Both are retired veterans and both have children in the school. Patterson’s son is in fourth grade and Marr has a son in the second grade.
For Marr, not only does he enjoy volunteering at the school, but it gives him a sense of purpose and responsibility.
“It gives me a reason to get up and know that I have a place where I have to be,” he said. And his buddy Vinca helps him get through the day.
Since both men began volunteering, parents have been happily following the rules. The traffic lines flow smoother and kids are out of danger. EES staff and parents are thankful for all the efforts they do to keep the kids safe. They’ve received gift cards from parents and homemade cards from the kids thanking them for their service.
Resource Officer Marc Arnold is especially grateful.
“They are both very helpful,” said Arnold of the faithful volunteers. “It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 degrees or if we’re having the torrential thunder lightning storm that we had the first day of school, they are out there helping because they feel it’s important.”
Article Comment Submission Form