55 Charles communities take part in National Night Out
Event brings community, police together
Across Charles County, 55 communities came together with law enforcement to celebrate food, fun and fellowship as part of National Night Out
“National Night Out is an opportunity for community and law enforcement to show that they are working shoulder to shoulder, that they are one. The community needs law enforcement and law enforcement needs communities to be successful,” said Charles County Sheriff
Troy Berry (D).
National Night Out is held annually on the first Tuesday in August. It began in 1984 with neighbors turning on their porch lights and sitting in front of their homes, and has since grown into a nationwide celebration with community members and law enforcement in 16,000 communities across the country, according to the National Night Out website.
The Charles County Sheriff’s Office began participation in 1991 with four community events, said Lt. Charles Baker, commander of community relations for the sheriff’s office.
Berry said National Night Out forms an important component of community policing.
“The Charles County Sheriff’s Office wants to empower communities to play a major role in their own safety and security,” Berry said. “We’re not asking them to be law enforcement officers, all we’re asking is to do this: If you see something unusual in your community, say something.”
In Charles County, 55 communities registered with law enforcement to participate in National Night Out activities, which Berry said is a phenomenal degree of participation in a county the size of Charles.
Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R) came to Charles to visit several of the communities taking part in National Night Out.
“It’s an opportunity for law enforcement and the community to come together in a very positive way, to celebrate both the community and what law enforcement does, and what the first responders are able to do to support the community,” Rutherford said.
Cathy Gilbert, co-chair of the National Night Out event in the Heritage neighborhood in White Plains, said National Night Out is hugely important to her community of more than 500 residents.
“It’s incredibly important, because we’re a 55-and-over community, and that means we have to watch out for each other,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert said this was Heritage’s 10th National Night Out celebration.
Clifton Shields, a Heritage resident, said he came out to show his support.
“This is my community, and I want to support it, and that’s what this is about,” Shields said. “There’s so much crime and violence going on in the surrounding area and even down here, so we need to come together.”
In the Huntington neighborhood in Waldorf, there was food, music, dancing and moon bounces. Ian Workman, treasurer for the neighborhood’s National Night Out committee, said the community has participated in National Night Out consecutively since 1994. Workman said at least 700 people attended the event.
“National Night Out is a great night, that’s meant to bring awareness to crime all across the country,” Workman said. “Everyone comes out and gets to know their neighbors, and help stop crime.”
“It’s a great feeling for us to be able to help the community, and we enjoy meeting the people,” Dawn Maree Dugan, assistant chief of the Ironsides Rescue Squad in Nanjemoy, said at the Nanjemoy Community Center National Night Out.
The Nanejmoy Volunteer Fire Department came out to teach children and adults about fire safety. They put on a demonstration of a stimulated fire, much like a typical kitchen fire, for children to put out using fire extinguishers.
“This demonstration is to teach children how to properly use a fire extinguisher; if we can introduce it to the kids now, they won’t be as scared of it later on,” Dennis Smith, Nanjemoy volunteer firefighter and Pentagon fire marshall, said.
“Who knows, half of these kids could be firemen when they get older.”
The Ironsides Rescue Squad was also at the community center, giving out candy and prizes to children as well as looking for new volunteers to join the squad.
Several other organizations came out to support and share knowledge of the Nanjemoy community.
Help For Pets, a nonprofit organization, offered the Nanjemoy community small bags of pet food and treats for pets in need.
“We want the community to know that if they are having a hard time caring for their pets, we’re here to help,” Pat Parrish, president of Help For Pets, said.
One of the organization’s major goals is to “keep pets out of the shelter and in homes, where they belong,” Parrish said.
The Western Charles County Community Association donated bags of school supplies for all school-aged children. The supplies are to help prepare them for the upcoming school year.
The nonprofit Beyond the Classroom attended Nanjemoy’s National Night Out, bearing free school supplies and other items for children in the community.
“[The goal here] is to make sure children are starting out the school year right,” Lisa Ambers, founder and president of Beyond the Classroom, said.
“A lot of these kids don’t have access; the goal of Beyond the Classroom is to give them access and exposure that they do not get inside of the classroom.”
Ambers’ nonprofit of-
fers youth programs and experiences such as workshops and sporting events children are limited to experiencing in the classroom.
“We want to make sure [the children in Nanjemoy] are equipped to succeed,” Ambers said.
DJ John Bowman set the mood for the festivities at La Plata Manor Apartments, a senior community east of the city center, spinning everything from classic rock to disco as residents queued up for
hot dogs and chips in the dining hall.
Sharon Hardesty, community manager at La Plata Manor, said that she valued National Night Out as an opportunity for residents to socialize. “After they eat, they will be up dancing and having a good time and meeting officials from the town,” she said. “New residents like events like this too, because it gives them a chance to meet everyone.”
James Wood, a resident for 16 years, said National Night Out is an opportunity for people to become more aware of issues in their community. “It’s
important to just talk to people and let them know what’s going on and talk to the police if need be,” he said.
Chick-fil-A, a local church and the sheriff’s office donated raffle gifts. A fire engine from the La Plata Volunteer Fire Department also stopped by for residents to meet and talk with the firefighters.
A setting sun served as the backdrop for the celebrations in the La Plata neighborhood of King’s Grant, as neighbors chatted over grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, cotton candy and popcorn. Kids took turns playing in the bouncy castle
and peeking inside the three LPVFD fire engines parked nearby. Members of the Charles County Volunteer Rescue Squad were out in force, handing out plastic fire hats and
“It’s a great opportunity for us to show our appreciation for everything public safety folks do for our community,” said Matt Trollinger, a member of the King’s Grant HOA’s safety committee. “They work so hard, it’s nice to be able to take the time to give them some props.”
Above, Maryland’s Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford speaks with Cathy Joseph at the Heritage community’s National Night Out celebration in White Plains Tuesday evening. Below, children lined up for moon bounces at the Huntington neighborhood’s National Night Out celebration Tuesday evening.
DR Soul Line Dance of Marlow Heights got the crowd moving with dance steps at the Huntington community’s National Night Out event Tuesday evening.
Lisa Ambers, founder and president of Beyond the Classroom, and Niki Taylor, volunteer of Nanjemoy, help 3-year-old Khamora Taylor of Indian Head spin the wheel to win school supplies and other prizes.
Gary Eisenbraun, left, treasurer of the King’s Grant Homeowner’s Association, and Lorne Wenzel grill hamburgers and hot dogs for the National Night Out celebrations in La Plata’s King’s Grant neighborhood.