National Night Out chalks up another successful year
Lenoir County Sheriff Ronnie Ingram, left, and Kinston Police Department Chief Alonzo Jaynes chat during Tuesday's National Night Out event at Pearson Park in Kinston. Photos by William 'Bud' Hardy / Neuse News
A decades-old tradition is still going strong across the nation.
National Night Out took place Tuesday at Pearson Park with Kinston continuing the community-police awareness event, which started nationally in 1984. According to NATW.org, more than 16,000 communities across the nation take part in the event, which was created to help relations between residents and officers with games, booths, music, food and the opportunity to hold a productive dialogue.
“First and foremost, it’s an opportunity to meet up with the public in a good environment,” Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Shawn Howard said. “Most of our interactions come in a time of need, so this is a chance for us to hang out with the community and get to know people on a personal level. We want the community to know we’re here for them and hopefully they have our backs as well.”
Click on photos to see entire gallery. Photos by William 'Bud' Hardy / Neuse News
Kinston Police Department Sgt. C.J. Rouse said it’s also a great way for residents to get in touch with numerous first response entities.
“It brings the community together as a whole,” Rouse said. “There’s no need for security because we’re all out here, but the community can come out and talk to officers, deputies, highway patrol, EMS, the National Guard — how often do you have the opportunity to see all of us in one place?”
North Carolina Highway Patrol 1st Sgt. Chris Young said it also gives residents the chance to see officers in a different light.
“This allows people to see a different side of us in the public,” Young said. “It’s not just the enforcement side they see in this case, but community policing.”
KPD Major Tim Dilday even participated in the dunking booth, something he said he did last year.
“It’s a good interaction,” Dilday said. “The kids have the ability to dunk me, and I love talking to the children and adults who come by.”
Melissa Mooring, 8, said it was one of her favorite events of the night.
“I liked the dunking booth, because it’s so much fun,” Mooring said.
Parker Mooring, 6, enjoyed another aspect.
“I like jumping around (in the moon bounce),” she said.
Lenoir County Commissioner Roland Best, who served with the KPD for 25 years, said it's a necessary community event.
“As a retired officer, I’ve always been interested in National Night Out,” Best said. “I like the idea of the community coming together and getting to know each other.”
Some of the booths also had helpful information to assist those in need or products for purchase. Lisa Wooten, a career advisor with Lenoir Community College, was educating folks on continuing education with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
“A lot of people who drop out don’t go back because they feel like they can’t,” Wooten said. “With this program, there’s criteria they have to fall in and with a lot of people in low-income areas, they can get help, find a trade, get their GED or even a two-year degree.”
Felicia Knight, who owns Creative Wreaths by Sunshine on Herritage Street, said it was a great way to introduce a business to a multitude of residents.
“It helps because I can show people where I’m located,” Knight said. “It’s been good being able to show what we do offer here as well.”
Overall, Pink Hill resident Linda Graham enjoyed the event.
“I like how the community has opened up this event to bring people together and you learn different things about (emergency services),” Graham said.