Jefferson Award Winner: Ralph Coushman - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Jefferson Award Winner: Ralph Coushman

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Chippewa Falls (WQOW)- Many of us work to support a cause or a non-profit organization we believe in. But, rarely does that desire to help others span decades.

Ralph Coushman has poured over 40 years into making sure traffic flows smoothly and safely at public and parochial schools in Chippewa Falls.

"There are very few people I think I've met in my life that have the ongoing passion and commitment," says Arla Prestin who nominated Ralph for the award. 

But Ralph's history with safety patrol goes back much further than that. 

"Way back in the 50's when I was in elementary school I was captain of my school's safety patrol," recalls Ralph. "In fact, that kind of got me interested in police work. I spent 25 years at the city police department and then I served one term as county sheriff. My two grown boys were in safety patrol. Now my granddaughter will be on patrol next year, so 3 generations in my family."

Under Ralph's guidance the Chippewa Falls safety patrol program has blossomed.

"I think there are many times where everyone who wants to be on safety patrol cannot be, and that's a wonderful problem to have when before, it was hard to find people," said Arla. 

Students work hard to earn the honor of wearing the badge. They must sign a contract that says they will maintain their grades, take care of the equipment and that they'll be at their post on time.

The florescent flags are a shining symbol of responsibility, but they weren't always so bright. Ralph was instrumental in helping to change state law. "The flag was school bus yellow it wasn't very bright," Ralph explains. "Especially during rainy days and dark days and early mornings. You couldn't hardly see it." 

He's been recognized on the national stage, named as AAA's safety patrol advisor of the year. It's an honor he was also given at the state level.

Ralph simply says, "I love working with kids and I've been doing it for many years. Volunteering is just in me. I volunteer for the Chamber of Commerce, the Main Street Program and I've got 33 years on the Optimist Club here in Chippewa. I just like to give back to the community, because it's been really good to me"

Part of the reason safety patrol has been so successful is because of the extra time Ralph spends with the kids. Each August, before school starts he holds a mini-camp where safety patrol students are trained.  He also plans fun incentives throughout the year,  including a trip to Wisconsin Dells.

If you'd like to nominate someone for a Jefferson Award click here.

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