Wallace Peoples, who endures the winter cold and the summer heat to ensure children cross the street safely, has recently fallen on hard times. The Sherwood Forest Elementary crossing guard has been on the job for two years and has earned the admiration of parents, students and school staff. Yet the Winston-Salem native, who helps out dozens of students each day, recently needed a helping hand himself.
Last month, Peoples, 62, was unable get to work because his car had broken down. Then on Christmas Eve he was admitted to a local hospital. Once the community heard about his misfortune, they rallied to help. Sloane Johnson, a parent, quickly posted a message on Facebook hoping to find Peoples support.
“Within a span of two hours, we had $800 raised and a car donated by another parent,” Johnson says. “He is the kindest man, who makes our kids feel loved and welcomed everyday while making sure they arrive and leave school safely.”
Peoples was at risk of losing his job since he was unable to get to and from work, though he insisted he wasn’t looking for a handout. Initially, he asked if anyone knew of an inexpensive car he could buy to replace his. Upon his return to work, Peoples was greeted by students and parents who held welcome signs and applauded his recovery. "He's just extraordinary," student Isabel Assouline said. "He helps all of us and keeps us safe, and we all love him."
Aside from the welcome, the local community had another surprise in store for the crossing guard. They handed him the keys to a used SUV that had been donated by a parent and a check for $2,500.
“They showed me so much love,” Peoples said. “And I don’t take it lightly. They are my kids. I take it very seriously, safety."
The average crossing guard earns an average compensation of $16,000 to $24,000 a year, which doesn’t allow for many luxuries, considering the median monthly rent in Winston-Salem is $714 and the median home price is $140,633. According to US News & World Report, a car is a requirement in Winston-Salem since the metro area extends about 132 square miles. Also, most residents are car-dependent, and the average commute time to work is roughly 23 minutes by car. Though the city has buses, they are not a time-efficient way to travel.
Crossing guards face numerous risks on the job. Though not many studies are available, a New Jersey Fatality Assessment & Control Evaluation (NJFACE) report found that 15 adult crossing guards in the state were killed on the job between 1993 and 2012. Also, from 2011 to 2012, crossing guards experienced 170 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work in New Jersey. These injuries included sprains, strains and fractures, resulting from slips, trips, and falls. On average, crossing guards are forced to be away from work as a result of injuries, more than all other local government occupations combined.