Getting to know the neighbors

August 2, 2011 by

Leon Rightmeier and Beth Gleason get to know each other at a National Night Out party in Concordia's Hood Park Tuesday evening.

Leon Rightmeier and Beth Gleason have both lived on West 14th Street for some time. They’d certainly seen each other over the years, and probably even waved. But they hadn’t met until Tuesday evening when they both went to nearby Hood Park for a neighborhood party as part of Concordia’s first-ever National Night Out.

And that’s really the point of the annual event now in its 28th year nationwide, said Concordia Police Chief Chris Edin, whose agency – along with the Concordia Year of Peace Committee – sponsored the communitywide participation.

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Volunteers organizers in an estimated 25 neighborhoods throughout the city planned block parties Tuesday, although a few of those were canceled or postponed due to concerns about the hot weather. But the temperature did not rise into triple digits as predicted, and as the parties began around 6 p.m. it was 93 degrees with a light breeze.

“This is exactly what I hoped for,” Edin said as he and his family stopped by a party in the front yard of a home on West 10th Street. “It’s all about neighbors out meeting neighbors.”

The goals of National Night Out are to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness; generate support for, and participation in, local anticrime programs; strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.

In Hood Park, while the grownups were introducing themselves, the kids didn’t need such formalities. Organizers Holly and Kevin Brown created an improvised water slide that proved an immediate hit.

In the small triangular park at Elmhurst and West Eighth streets, Sisters Pat McLennon and Ramona Medina hosted a small group of their neighbors at a potluck cookout. The towering old trees there provided comfortable shade.

The biggest gathering may have been in the East Shelter at City Park, where Patrick Sieben manned the hot dog grill and everyone else brought potluck dishes.

Other organizers blocked off sections of their streets or filled their front yards with lawn chairs for neighborhood picnics and barbecues.

The Year of Peace Committee hopes Concordia’s National Night Out will grow and become an annual event, said Sister Jean Rosemarynoski, who chairs that group.

The 2011 National Night Out was expected have participants in more than 15,000 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide. In 2010, an estimated 37 million people participated in National Night Out.

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