You name it, and Ismail Hussain likely participated in it on Tuesday during one of the National Night Out block parties in Garden City.

From jumping in a bouncy house and playing soccer, to eating snow cones and playing giant Jenga, the 5-year old zoomed through the apartment complex in the 300 block of West Mary Street during National Night Out, an event held annually since 1984 on the first Tuesday of August. The event, sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch in the United States and Canada,  typically is organized by block watches, nonprofit organizations, companies and police departments. Locally, the event was put on by the Garden City Police Department.

“I like the fun and the people here,” Ismail said after playing giant Jenga.

At the party, LiveWell Finney County was giving out bicycle helmets and providing face painting for kids, members of the GCPD and GCPD’s Explorer program played soccer with the neighborhood kids, the Finney County Public Library was giving out informational flyers, and there was even a bouncy house.

LiveWell Finney County, a local health coalition, hosted the Mary Street party. According to Callie Dyer, executive director of LiveWell, the coalition has hosted a National Night Out in the Mary Street area — which is predominantly made up of Somali and Burmese immigrants — for at least four years. Dyer said that LiveWell hosts it in that area because of its Neighborhood Learning Center located at the apartment complex.

“We offer ESL classes, citizenship classes, parenting classes and host different things like wellness classes. We feel like it’s important to be integrated in their community and for them to be integrated into our community,” Dyer said. “It’s a good time to interact with people… People always remember how you make them feel.”

Garden City Police Chief Mike Utz said Garden City has participated in the National Night Out for as long he can remember.

“I’ve been here going on 35 years, and I can’t remember when we didn’t have it,” Utz said. “The purpose of National Night Out is for neighbors to get to know neighbors and for law enforcement to integrate into those neighborhood get-togethers.”

This year’s National Night Out was expected to involve over 16,500 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases around the world. In all, over 38.5 million people were expected to participate in ‘America’s Night Out Against Crime’ in 2018, according to the GCPD.

National Night Out is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate support and participation in local anti-crime efforts, strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships, and send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back against crime.

“Nationwide, I think we’re so engaged in social media that sometimes we don’t know who are neighbors are. I even heard people say, ‘I didn’t know this person was a part of my neighborhood,’” Utz said. “When we interact with the different neighborhood get-togethers, parties or cookouts, it’s really interesting to get to watch neighbors getting to know their own neighbors.”

Utz said more than 10 neighborhoods were expected to participate in the event. Along with the block party at 305 W. Mary St. in the Garden Spot Rentals apartments, there were various other get-togethers throughout Garden City that included bouncy houses, water and slippin’ slides, barbecues and just company from neighbors.

While getting to know neighbors serves as the primary purpose of National Night Out, it also helps law enforcement get to know neighborhoods and who resides in them.

“This is a great opportunity for us to get to know folks in the community and for folks in the community to get to know us on the human-sided nature,” Utz said. “Most of the time when they get to know us is when they call for us for some help. This humanizes things so we get to know each other.”

 

Contact Josh Harbour at jharbour@gctelegram.com.