08/03/11 — A night out together

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A night out together

By Gary Popp
Published in News on August 3, 2011 1:46 PM

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Jaden Ide, 2, shows the right spirit by sharing his popcorn with Jacob Craig, 3, at the National Night Out at Herman Park. The Night Out is an annual event that brings together law enforcement officers and the public in an effort to strengthen community ties.

An estimated 2,000 people gathered at Herman Park on Tuesday evening to hear music and other entertainment, enjoy food and meet neighbors at the 28th annual National Night Out.

The event was sponsored by the Goldsboro Police Department, Wayne County Sheriff's Office and the Goldsboro Housing Authority as a way to strengthen the bond between residents and the lawmen who patrol their neighborhoods.

Goldsboro interim police Chief Jeff Stewart spent most of the evening walking through the crowd greeting residents.

"It is one thing I really enjoy coming to," Stewart said. "Everybody is having fun.

"Look around, the most important thing in Wayne County is right here -- the people," he said.

Police Cpl. Marissa Davis helped organized the event.

"The community really received the event well," she said. "We had a great turnout, considering the heat. A lot of the people could have stayed home in the air conditioning."

Despite the hot weather, the public took the opportunity to talk with law enforcement officials in a social setting and to learn about the different services offered in the community.

Pat Battle said the event shows that law enforcement agencies are trying to connect with the public.

"The police department is trying to make a bond with the community, but the community doesn't always want to make a bond with the police," she said. "The police are doing their job and doing the best they can, just like everybody else."

Jessie Dawson was part of the large group gathered near the stage.

Ms. Dawson was eating popcorn, talking to friends and listening to the harmony of a large choir group.

"I come every year to support the city and show them I am part of the city," Ms. Dawson said, adding that she has been a regular at the National Night Out for many years.

Pat Edwards said she was enjoying her very first National Night Out experience and was surprised by how many people showed up.

"I am really enjoying myself," Ms. Edwards said. "I like watching all the activities. I am definitely coming next year, too."

Ms. Edwards said she thinks the event will help improve the relationship between law enforcement and the community, especially young people.

"It is good to give the kids something to do. I like to see kids doing something different," Ms. Edwards said.

Services providers at the event included Wayne Uplift Domestic Violence Center, Gateway Transit, Goldsboro/Wayne County Crime Stoppers, Carolina Treatment Center of Goldsboro and the Boys & Girls Club.

All of the organizations offered information, and some were set up to offer their services on site.

One of the most popular services community members were taking advantage of was the Colgate Bright Smiles/Bright Futures RV.

"It has been nonstop," said Margaret Hooper, coordinator of the dental service. "We are screening kids to see if they have obvious tooth cavities, and we talk to them about good oral health habits and nutrition."

The mobile dental service was assisted by Goldsboro dentist Dr. Philip Brantly and his staff, Ms. Hooper said.

"We are so appreciative of their support," she said.

After the screenings, the youngsters were given toothbrushes, toothpaste and vouchers for dental products that will allow them or their parents to pay tax only on dental care products.

Some of the food available included pizza handed out by Pizza Inn, hot dogs provided by Harvest Fellowship Church and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Among the volunteer vendors was the Lions Club, which popped more than 50 pounds of popcorn.

Joseph Batkoski, president of the Goldsboro Downtown Lions, said the organization's members have participated in National Night Out for many years, and they have fun doing it.

"People have gotten to know us," Batkoski said. "We have a good time all the way down the line."

Batkoski said some of the organizations members are former police officers and deputies who take special pride in participating in National Night Out.

The military also was represented, with a Marine Corps booth that allowed youngsters to test their strength by doing pull ups.

"An important part of the Marine Corps is community building," Staff Sgt. Malcolm Thomas said. "We not only want to build strong Marines, but also strong communities."