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Car Seat Drive Takes Off in the Valley

Don Morgan surrounded by car seats

Many infants and young children placed in foster homes in the Lower Rio Grande Valley will ride a lot safer now because of the generosity of Continental Airlines employees.

As of September 2009, Texas child passenger safety laws require car seats for children younger than five years of age and less than 36 inches in height. While the law took effect in September, a nine-month grace period has given families time to prepare.

Maria Livingston, Harlingen area director of Family Services with Lutheran Social Services (LSS), recognized right away that this created a specific need for foster families in the area.

“For foster families with young ones who meet this profile, compliance with the new law can be expensive, especially for sibling groups,” said Livingston. “Sometimes we need to place children with a new family right away. Younger kids have more out-of-pocket expenses like diapers, formula, strollers, cribs, and car seats. It adds up fast.”

Livingston approached City Commissioner Melissa Hernandez-Zamora of Brownsville about the problem, and was referred to Don Morgan, Continental Airlines general manager at the Brownsville/South Padre Airport. Largely through the generosity and creative thinking of Morgan and fellow Continental Airlines employees, a car seat drive was quickly coordinated with donated car seats coming from as far away as Minnesota.

“I simply put the word out through internal channels at work and employees responded,” said Morgan. “It feels good knowing you’re helping those in need in your local community, especially children.” Morgan added that while his efforts are supported by management, the car seat drive is not an official corporate sponsorship.

So far, 14 car seats along with five strollers have made their way into the automobiles of RGV foster family cars, and hundreds more are reported to be on the way.

“We are so grateful to the people at Continental for their generosity. It has taken a lot of pressure off our foster families,” continued Livingston.  “It makes it easier to place children knowing I have car seats available for the families caring for the children while they are in foster care.”

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