Night Out brings neighbors together

Posted Monday, Oct. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The purpose of National Night Out seems to depend on who you ask.

For Mansfield police officer Brandi Howard, it’s about fighting crime. For Greg Ajemian, it’s about keeping his neighbors in the know. For Nicole Wynne, it’s about taking care of her neighbors. And for Elijah Valdez, 7, it’s about fun.

Turns out, they are all right. National Night began in 1984 with the intention of fighting crime by getting people out of their homes and into the streets one night a year to meet their neighbors and network on what is going on in the community and their neighborhoods. The national event is held in August in most states, but Texas bowed to the summer heat and moves its Night Out event to Oct. 1.

The nationwide movement has evolved to include elaborate block parties with bounce houses and entertainment, but can also be a few neighbors getting together to share cookies and talk. Mansfield’s neighborhoods ranged the gamut.

The Meadow Glen Homeowners Association hosted the largest organized event in town with games, prizes, poster contest, gift cards from Target, burgers and hot dogs on the grill and close to 200 participants from the 161 houses in the east Mansfield neighborhood.

“We went door to door and handed out fliers,” said Paula Speece, who organized the neighborhood’s fourth annual party.

And her efforts seem to be paying off.

“I can’t tell you how many neighbors know each other,” she said. “We had one family move in two weeks ago and they couldn’t wait to come.”

For 7-year-old Elijah Valdez, who lives in the Meadow Glen neighborhood, Night Out is about the party.

“I think it’s all about having fun and meeting some new people you can talk to,” he said.

His friend Isabelle Tasher, 12, knew there were other elements involved.

“It’s to teach young people about safety and to get them involved,” she said.

Howard, who coordinates the event for the police department, says it gives officers a chance to meet residents when there is not an emergency and for neighbors to get to know each other.

“In most neighborhoods, a lot of people don’t know their neighbor,” she said. “There’s a mind-your-own-business mentality.”

Fifteen neighborhoods held organized National Night Out events this year, Howard said, down from more then 20 last year.

“Neighbors are still getting out and having get-togethers, they’re just doing it at different times of the year,” she said.

That’s what happens in her neighborhood, said DeAnne Burdick, who lives in Bankston Meadows, where several gathered in the poolhouse pavilion for cookies. Pool parties and the fall festival draw bigger crowds, but the fast-growing neighborhood does get together.

“We are each other’s keepers,” said Nicole Wynne, Burdick’s neighbor. “We have a newsletter, website and e-mails. We try to keep people in the know. It’s fast and furiously growing.”

On Councilman Darryl Haynes’ Heritage Estate street, they were serving bowls of homemade soup while visiting in lawn chairs in front of his house.

“This is where you get to put a face to the e-mail,” he said. “We’re friends the first time we see each other.”

A few blocks over, the Ajemians were hosting their 13th annual block party with pizza in the front yard.

“My wife made me do it,” said Greg Ajemian, Heritage Neighborhood Partnership coordinator. “We don’t have an HOA. I send out crime watch information, information about the school district and new parks. I think for all of us, it’s about being in the know and working together.”

Amanda Rogers, 817-473-4451 Twitter: @AmandaRogersNM

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