By Editorial Board
Dorothy Bennett is a hero.
For more than 48 years, Dorothy Bennett has braved bad weather, worse drivers and gunshots as a crossing guard to keep kids on the street safe. She risked her life and saved a little boy from being run over by a reckless driver at great personal cost–she was struck by the car herself and endured seven surgeries as a result. She has never fully regained the mobility she had before.
In 1975, Bennett started out as a crossing guard in Stowe Township making $2.30 an hour. Now she helps kids in McKees Rocks to cross the street safely at a rate of $10 an hour.
In 1975, $2.30 had the purchasing power of $12.86, so with inflation, she’s actually making less than when she started. No one is going to help kids at a crosswalk to get rich, but why is their pay effectively declining year to year?
While law enforcement is often lauded by local officials, and teachers are sometimes honored for the work they do, crossing guards rarely get their moment in the spotlight. Because it’s part-time and doesn’t require a lot of training, it’s one of those essential jobs that are largely ignored. To be a crossing guard, you don’t have to have specialized knowledge—you have to have dedication. Bennett has demonstrated a level of Herculean dedication to the children in her neighborhood. She describes them as mostly good kids, who bring her treats at the holidays and say hello every day. She has helped generations of families safely cross the street.
The kids in Stowe and McKees Rocks deserve a hero like Bennett – a humble person who shows up every day to make sure they’re getting home alright.
Bennett has helped kids as a crossing guard for so long because she likes it and cares about the community. Her husband was a volunteer firefighter for many years before he died, and her son is one currently. She takes part in community festivals and fundraisers. Bennett would be doing this no matter what because she loves it.
A lot of people who would love it, too, can’t handle the split shifts. Working as a crossing guard doesn’t feed a family, and also makes having a full-time job hard. The same can be said for driving a school bus. There is a shortage of bus drivers and crossing guards throughout the region and beyond. In the City of Pittsburgh, students have missed school because of the bus driver shortage.
Bennet will be retiring at the end of this school year.
If you happen to see her at the intersection of Island Avenue and Adrian Street in McKees Rocks ushering children across the street while wearing her reflective vest and holding up a stop sign, thank her for being a hero to generations of children.
And remember, heroes don’t descend from the sky when people need them. They’re the people who show up and do their jobs every day – real people who have to pay their bills, who get hurt and then deserve the support of the community they’ve served.