Hilliard Northwest News

Church at Mill Run

Class intended to bridge cultural gap on traffic laws

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

When Michele Kurfees learned an Upper Arlington police officer was critically injured in an Oct. 18 crash, she soon puzzled out it was her neighbor, Shawn Paynter.

Her other concern was who else was involved.

Paynter was responding to a robbery call at a Henderson Road fast-food restaurant at 1:35 a.m. when his cruiser, with lights and sirens activated, struck a Toyota Corolla that ran a red light and then stopped in the intersection of Riverside Drive and Fishinger Road.

A family of six immigrants from Iraq -- four daughters ages 2 to 16, and their parents, Eid Badi Shahad, 39, and Entisar W. Hameed, 31, were killed. None were wearing seat belts, and the 2-year-old was not a child's car seat, accident investigators said.

"I felt a burden to do something ... I thought, 'we can do something,' " said Kurfees, 52, of Upper Arlington.

Kurfees helped organize a Dec. 3 class taught by Hilliard police to help immigrants better understand the rules of the road, including how to properly yield to emergency vehicles and the proper use of seat belts and child restraints.

"I thought we can do a better job of helping (immigrants) understand (our traffic laws)," Kurfees said. "I know they pass a test, but I think there are still things, literally, lost in translation."

She realized she did not have to go far to find those she sought to help.

Kurfees is a member of the Church at Mill Run, which is the second campus of the Upper Arlington Lutheran Church.

Serving Our Neighbors Ministries teaches English literacy classes from 6 to 9 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday evening at the Church at Mill Run, 3500 Mill Run Drive.

More than 500 adults and children through the seventh grade are registered to attend the free classes, provided through a cooperative effort of SON Ministries, the Upper Arlington Lutheran Church and Tolles Career and Technical Center.

Kurfees said using part of the language classes for driving education seemed like a good idea.

"(Kurfees) came to us with this idea and we helped make it happen," said Kim Emch, executive director of SON Ministries. "It was on her heart to do it and it was amazing to watch.

"Many said it was helpful and thanked us."

Hilliard police officers Mike Deaton and Hyda Slone taught the class Dec. 3 at the Church at Mill Run.

They considered the effort a success and plans are under way for a second session, tentatively scheduled for January.

"It was eye-opening," Slone said. "I thought they knew a little more (about traffic laws)."

She said some of the problems can be attributed to differences in culture.

Slone said she learned in Puerto Rico that police officers drive with emergency lights on at all times.

"Here, police sometimes run to a robbery with lights and no sirens, so (the suspects) won't hear them coming," Slone said.

Because a translator was needed to ask and answer questions, progress was slow, prompting the call for an additional class at the start of next year, Kurfees said.

In addition to traffic laws, the participants were taught about seat belts and child restraints and were even provided donated car seats.

Lydia Emch, a senior at Hilliard Davidson High School and the daughter of Kim Emch, currently is collecting donations of car seats.

"We noticed a lot of families weren't using them or did not have them," Kim Emch said.

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