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car seat austinWhen Lindsey Austin’s youngest daughter outgrew her child safety car seat, Austin knew where to go to find out what kind of seat she would need next. She contacted Albany Fire Department and found out that the department’s child passenger safety seat program had been discontinued.

Lindsey Austin doesn’t take “no” for an answer. Today, she’s a national instructor in child passenger safety and will represent the state of Oregon at a national conference on that subject later this year. All expenses are being covered by a training grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Austin, a Public Works Engineering project manager, has been a certified child passenger safety technician for nearly six years and a national instructor for more than two.

“In that time, I have inspected thousands of seats all over the state of Oregon,” she said. 

Austin is one of three certified child passenger safety technicians with the City of Albany, with Deputy Fire Marshal Alfredo Mendez and Administrative Assistant Shelby Draper. They and a group of dedicated volunteers conduct nine to 10 clinics at the Fire Department each year, checking 15-30 seats each time. 

Three clinics are scheduled this winter and spring: February 21, April 2 and May 14. All are held at Fire Station 12, 120 34th Avenue SE, from 5-7 p.m. Here’s more information: 

Though the program was defunct when she first asked about it, Austin got the help she needed from Fire staff and didn’t let the matter go.

“I decided to go ahead and get certified on my own,” she said. Then she read a blog post by former City Manager Wes Hare about struggling with his grandson’s seat. “I reached out to Wes and explained how important the need was in our community and that I wanted to get another program started.”

Hare connected Austin with Fire Chief John Bradner and Assistant Chief Shane Wooton and that led to help from the Albany Firefighters Community Assistance Fund (AFFCAF). Austin revived the program and eventually secured an ODOT grant to get things going. 

The child passenger seat program costs about $3,500 per year. Most is used to purchase seats that are distributed to income-eligible families. “We also use funding for supplies as needed such as scales, clipboards, pool noodles, training dolls, educational handouts, training resources such as technical manuals, access to recall lists and a database of manuals for every child safety seat manufacturers,” Austin said. 

The ODOT grant has been getting smaller and it runs out this year, leaving the program about $2,000 short. She’s looking for other grants or help from community groups. Anyone interested in donating can do so through AFFCAF: 

“The one clear thing is that the community desperately needs this resource,” Austin said.

Austin has worked for the City of Albany for about 10 years. Her two daughters are now 7 and 10.