By David Denson, Gary Crusader
The threat of rain did not dampen the enthusiasm of participants in the City of Gary’s National Night Out on August 7.
Gary joined with cities across the region and the nation in the annual celebration. Among the other communities participating in the celebration were East Chicago, Hammond, Hobart, Schererville and Valparaiso.
Due to weather concerns the activities were change from Froebel Park to the YWCA. The members of the city’s communication department were able to get the word out about the change of venue and the rest of the evening was carried on as planned.
“At first when the rain started happening I started thinking to myself they’re going to have to cancel, but when it stopped raining I said I was going ahead to Froebel just to see if they were still going to do it. When I saw that they were going to have it at the YWCA, I said great,” said Gary resident and community activist Kendra Johnson.
Since its inception 35 years ago, National Night Out has been an annual community building campaign the promotes partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live. By enhancing relationships with neighbors and law enforcement, National Night Out seeks to bring about a sense of community.
This year’s event featured giveaways, games, youth activities, food and fitness demonstrations. Several community organizations and businesses also participated, including the Gary Branch of the NAACP whose members were conducting voter registration.
Joy Holliday head’s the city’s Gary for Life Program — an anti-crime restoration initiative. She says the major benefit of the Night Out is the community being able to interact with law enforcement. “It’s very important for the community and for law enforcement, and public safety. Anytime that you get a chance to interact with the community and the community gets to come and take part is always a positive,” said Holliday.
According to Holliday, events like the Night Out can also help in improving the image of law enforcement with youth. “When kids get a chance to interact with officers and get to see that they are not somebody to be feared, they are just like you and me. They get to carry that out to the community and they get to spread that goodwill to everyone. This is about communities building relationships, building trust within the community, and I think it helps, “said Holliday.
“I think it is absolutely important that we have things like the National Night out because it allows the community a safe environment to get to know each other. It allows us to get together and get information about how to make communities safer and get to know who ‘Officer Friendly’ really is,” said Councilman Herb Smith.
“It sends a message to citizens about being involved in the community and coming out shows that our streets are safe, and they are safe because most of our citizens are good people, said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.