National Night Out fosters sense of community

By on August 3, 2016
Ken Martin thanks Weinoldt, one of Lititz's newest officers, for his service.

Lititz Borough police officer Tyler Weinoldt got a hero’s welcome when he showed up at the National Night Out block party on East Fourth Street, near Locust, Tuesday evening.

He also got pasta salad, tortellini, fresh fruit, barbecue and pie.

“This is our second annual National Night Out block party, and this year it seems more important than ever to show our support to our wonderful Lititz Police Department,” said Debby Pegg, who organized the event. “They work hard to keep us safe.”

Pegg noted that about 70 neighbors come together for the potluck dinner. Weinoldt, who joined the Lititz Police Department in February, was enjoying the festivities.

“This means a lot to all of us,” he said. He was among four officers who stopped by for the neighborhood party. “It’s very cool.”

Weinoldt is impressed with the community support, especially in light of tragic police shootings across the country, including a recent attempted police shooting in nearby Columbia.

“It’s great to see the community come together and support us. They have been great,” he said, adding that police have been getting treats, thank you notes, and friendly waves from the public.

Neighbor Ken Martin stopped by to enjoy the fun and offer his thanks to Weinoldt and the officers who serve the community.

Lititz’s new police chief, Kerry Nye, was grateful for the welcome his officers received.

“National Night Out is beneficial to everyone involved since it gets the residents to know the officers,” he said. “When you know someone personally you will reach out to them much more quickly than someone you do not know.”

Nye also said National Night Out provides residents with a platform on which to speak with the officers, directly, about any issues that need to be addressed. They may have things on their minds, but have hesitated to call the police department. Having a police officer stop by to visit gives them the opportunity in a more relaxed setting.

“Police and resident interactions have always been important, but with everything that is going on, this year is very important,” Nye added.

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National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make neighborhoods safer, better places to live. Neighbors get together on a summer evening to get to know each other and work together to foster a sense of community.

Not far away, residents of East Lemon Street were holding their annual party.

“We started having this block party 15 years ago, long before National Night Out,” said Joanne Hess, who organizes the event with her husband Ken. “It began as a way to get the neighborhood together, but now it’s a nice way to show our support for the police too.”

At least one officer stopped by early in the evening to visit with the neighbors. While Ken cooked up hot dogs on the grill, his wife dished out ice cream. The rest of the neighbors brought watermelon salad, macaroni and cheese, cinnamon rolls, and other dishes to share.

The newest kid on the block, little Hannah Heintzelman (almost a year old), was focused on the ice cream. Her parents, Steve and Jackie, have lived in the neighborhood for more than five years, and they appreciate what the Hesses do to bring everyone together. There were about 25 people at the Lemon Street get-together.

All over Lititz and the neighboring townships, residents were outdoors and getting to know each other better. As David Steffen, chief of the Northern Lancaster County Regional Police Department, noted, every day is important to building and maintaining the bridges within the community.

“Such a relationship results in a more effective repression, investigation and prosecution of crime,” he explained. “It is important to understand that most of what we do is largely public service, and that we within the police community are the first line of public assistance in most cases where citizens are in need of immediate help.”

Steffen and his officers were hosting a huge National Night Out party just west of Lititz, at the Penn Township municipal campus. The carnival-like party brought police and residents together for food, fun and fellowship. Kids could try on real police body armor, and then cool off in the dunk tank.

Steffen said National Night Out offers an opportunity for the public to see the police beyond their normal roles, when everyone can relax.

It’s a night when the community can thank local officers for their service, and police can thank the community for its support.

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback and story ideas at lknowles21@gmail.com.

 

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