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Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Wayne Goodwin visited Haywood County Friday to recognize Bethel Elementary School and three other elementary schools for their efforts to raise awareness about fire safety.

Bethel Elementary was recently recognized by the Haywood County Board of Education and Board of County Commissioners for Best Overall Participation in the first Family Safety Challenge Award, a project created by the Save Our Students Committee. The SOS committee formed in July 2008 in the aftermath of two house fires that claimed the lives of four people, including three students at Bethel.

Goodwin presented Certificates of Appreciation to Bethel Elementary, as well as Central, Hazelwood and Clyde Elementary Schools for their effort in the Fire Safety Challenge Program. Goodwin also spoke to fifth grade students at Bethel and praised the effort they had made to engage students and faculty, as well as their families and communities in talking about fire safety.

“I’m going to tell people around the state about what’s going on in Haywood County,” Goodwin said.

The objective of the Family Safety Challenge Program was to increase fire safety and disaster preparedness among Haywood County families by developing an annual challenge and awards program for the nine elementary schools and the families and communities they serve. The program was developed and approved by the Save Our Students Committee, and submitted to the Board of Education and Board of Commissioners for approval and financial support.

The competition started shortly after the school year began and ran through the end of October, which is Fire Safety Month throughout the United States.In addition to $500 contributions from both boards, Haywood Insurance also provided an additional $250 for a total of $1,250.Bethel Elementary received $600 for Best Overall Participation; Central Elementary received $300 for Highest Family Participation Rate; Hazelwood Elementary received $250 for Most Creative Idea for Involving Families and Clyde Elementary received $100 for Best Community Outreach.

In December, each school made a presentation on their efforts to a judge’s panel that included a representative from the Fire Chiefs Council, the Citizen Corps Council, Haywood Insurance, the Board of Education and the Board of County Commissioners.In addition to the Family Safety Challenge Program, the Save Our Students Committee has also been working with county fire departments to obtain smoke detectors and install them in the homes of families in need. So far, about 500 smoke detectors have been installed throughout the county.

Photo Caption: State Fire Marshal and Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin presented Certificates of Appreciation Friday to Clyde, Hazelwood, Central and Bethel Elementary Schools for their participation in the Family Safety Challenge Program. Here, Goodwin, right, presents a certificate to Bethel Elementary fifth grader Rani “Shae” Craig, who was burned in a house fire in April 2008 that also took the life of her sister Nayeli Garcilita. Jill Barker, center, is principal at Bethel, which won the Family Safety Challenge Award for Best Overall Participation.

For more information, contact:
David Teague, Public Information Officer
Haywood County
828-452-7305; 828-400-9691 or
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