Meet your neighbors: National Night Out potlucks, everyone welcome

August 2015 Posted in Community
National Night Out

National Night Out

By Brenna Wiegand

Gone are the days when folks left their doors unlocked – and opened them without checking to see who’s there – and the porch light was always on at night.

From big cities to small towns, folks are a little more weary about whose knocking on their door or walking in their neighborhood.

Eager to help people “take back the night” the National Association of Town Watch was formed in 1981.

The non-profit crime prevention organization is a network of citizens, law enforcement agencies, neighborhood watch groups, civic groups and state and regional crime prevention associations. Through that network, NATW launched the annual National Night Out campaign. Individual communities throughout the U.S. host events to create similar networks on the home front.

Scotts Mills, Mount Angel and Silverton have been enthusiastic participants for years and will again observe National Night Out on Aug. 4 in concert with communities across the U.S.

It’s a chance to meet neighbors and acquaint yourself with local resources as you enjoy food, fun stuff for the kids, fire trucks and police cars – all while helping prevent crime.

Even if you’re unable to attend that night, you can leave your porch light on. It’s a symbol of alertness and awareness and makes people feel welcome. Other suggestions include introducing yourself to your neighbors and organizing neighborhood activities: block parties, cookouts, porch sittings and other events that say ‘We don’t tolerate crime here.’

Most people meet the police in the context of a traumatic incident or a traffic stop. Mount Angel Police Sgt. Jeff Charpilloz said events such as National Night Out are great opportunities for the public to see “us outside the scope of the critical incident and let them know ‘We’re people out here doing our best to protect you and we want to work with you to make our community the best that we possibly can.’”

National Night Out Tuesday, Aug. 4 events

Scotts Mills invites community members to its
event starting at 5:30 p.m. at Scotts Mills City Park.
Details: Potluck – bring a main course and a dessert,
lawn chair or blanket; all else provided.
Donation jar to help cover costs.
Contact: Raleen Hockenberry, smnwcp@gmail.com;
503-873-5563; website: smnwcp.org.

Mount Angel welcomes all residents 6 to 8 p.m. in
downtown between North Garfield and East Charles
streets, near the Glockenspiel. Details: Potluck –
bring a side dish; free barbecued hot dogs.
Sidewalk chalk contest.
Contact: Maureen Ernst, mernst@mtangel.net;
503-845-6208; 503-910-5417

Silverton holds its gathering 5 to 7 p.m.
at Saint Edwards Church, 211 W Center St.
Details: Free hot dogs and lemonade.
Police, fire, women’s crisis and other resources.
Face painting, bounce house, self-defense
demonstrations and more.
Contact: Donna Brown, rdbrown209@aol.com

Charpilloz said National Night Out is “an informal ‘meet and greet’ and a time for citizens to say, ‘You know what? I don’t have to be locked away in my house – I’m going to get out and I’m going to take back the night.’

By sharing their vehicles for kids, giving out stickers, answering questions and giving stranger-danger talks, police and fire personnel hope to make youth more comfortable with reaching out to them in the future.

“When I retire, some of these kids will be our trusted and good law enforcement, firefighters or other public servants – or they’re going to be the people that law enforcement are serving so it’s nice for them to know what we’re about,” Charpilloz said.

“There’s so much negative stuff in the press about horrible incidents, those are the ones that get the most media coverage; the good engagements and stuff are much less known,” he added.

“As a law enforcement officer for 20 years now, those are the moments that I really hold close to my heart because that’s why we do our job.”

Donna Brown of Saint Edward’s Church, hosting this year’s Silverton event, said the event helps raise awareness of things of concern.

“It gives people information about the resources available to them – information is power,” Brown said. “For instance, SACA recently held a workshop on internet security to help keep children and teenagers safe when they’re using social media.”

Scotts Mills has an established Neighborhood Watch & Citizen Patrol group and a partnership with Marion County Sheriff’s Office that goes back decades. The town is in its 16th year holding a National Night Out.

“Scotts Mills Neighborhood Watch has been recorded as an active organization in the community for over 30 years with historical notes indicating an association with MCSO as early as 1984,” Raleen Hockenberry of Scotts Mills said.

“Oldtimers in the area say there has been an ongoing neighborhood/community watch in one form or another in the Scotts Mills area for well over 50 years.”

Mount Angel Chamber of Commerce has been hosting that town’s event for years.

“We just thought it was a great way to unite the city, chamber and the fire district and to recognize all of our volunteer firefighters,” Maureen Ernst of the Chamber said. “

‘Let’s do a potluck and let’s just close the streets downtown’ and it just grew from there. It brings out an awareness that we are a Bavarian village and we all need to watch out for each other on the streets we live on.

“Our fire department rolls out its Traeger BBQ and gets to work setting up the Festhalle tables and chairs,” Ernst said. “They’ll also bring a piece of apparatus for display.”

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