Charles City National Night Out attracts a crowd
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By Bob Steenson, [email protected]
One of the hotter afternoons of the year didn’t stop a large crowd of people from mingling with their local Police Department and other emergency response providers on Charles City’s National Night Out.
The annual event is an opportunity for police officers and the people to get to know each other a little better, said Community Policing Officer Duane Ollendick, of the Charles City PD.
“It’s an event that we put on to bring the public out to have interaction with police officers on a positive note, rather than seeing us when they call us for some sort of disturbance or something going on,” he said.
“Plus it gives the kids a chance to come out and meet the officers, gives the parents a chance to come out and meet the officers,” Ollendick said. “Usually you see them driving around in a squad car and nobody knows who’s behind the wheel because you just see the glasses and you see a cop car go by.”
This year’s event offered a selection of inflatables for the kids, free shoes, free backpacks filled with school supplies, free hot-dog meals, a bicycle giveaway, displays by other emergency response departments and a visit by the MercyOne Air Med helicopter from the Mason City hospital.
Fareway donated the hot dogs and buns. Mark and Theresa Jenkins were back again on the grill, cooking the weiners.
“We just want to serve the community. We work in Cedar Springs Camp out in Floyd, and we’ve been responsible the last four or five years, we’ve been here doing the cooking,” said Mark.
“And it helps that our son is a police officer,” added Theresa.
United Way of North Iowa, partnering with Valero Renewables, distributed sneakers, continuing a practice started by Mackenzie Wilson five years ago when she was a high school student and started shoe drives. Wilson, now a student at the University of Northern Iowa, was back in the park to help out with the distribution at National Night Out on Tuesday.
Backpacks were donated by the Salvation Army, then Zoetis filled them with school supplies and helped distribute them.
The annual Marzen Memorial Bike Rodeo had to be canceled in the spring because of weather, so the Police Department held a drawing for the bicycles as part of the event Tuesday.
Ollendick said he was happy with the turnout.
“People keep filing in, and that’s what we want to see. Hopefully they hang around for awhile, enjoy the bouncy toys and get free shoes and backpacks and a free meal,” he said.
National Night Out is usually, well, a nighttime event.
Ollendick said it was moved to the afternoon this year because the air ambulance helicopter wasn’t going to be available later in the evening.
However, as it turned out, the Air Med helicopter – originally expected in Charles City about 4:30 p.m. – got called to make a transfer to Des Moines and didn’t get to Charles City until almost 6 o’clock.
The helicopter did a couple of passes around Central Park and the downtown area, than landed in an area that Floyd County Search and Rescue had prepared in the parking lot off North Jackson Street, south of the park.
Kylie Koch, a flight paramedic who flew in on the helicopter, said it’s important for Mercy to be involved in events like the National Night Out in Charles City.
“We do try our best to try and get out in the communities, just to kind of let everyone know that we’re present and here for them,” Koch said, adding that the Charles City stop was one of three community events they were participating in on Tuesday.
National Night Out began in the 1980s as a way to connect law enforcement agencies, neighborhood watch groups, civic groups and state and regional crime prevention associations in a symbolic show of neighborhood camaraderie, according to the National Night Out organization.
It takes place each year on the first Tuesday in August.