From North to South, Calvert Celebrates National Night Out
14 community parties help promote police-community camaraderie
By Andrea Frazier And Sara Newman And Sarah Fleischman Staff Writers
On a clear, sunny Tuesday, neighbors from across Calvert County came out on their bikes and scooters, with strollers, puppies, coolers full of water, plenty of hot dogs and Italian ice, as they joined together with Calvert County law enforcement and fire and rescue volunteers for the annual National Night Out celebration.
Eighteen neighborhoods from all over the county celebrated National Night Out, with 14 community block parties aimed at promoting police-community camaraderie Tuesday evening.
College Station, a neighborhood newly built behind the College of Southern Maryland in Prince Frederick, hosted its first National Night Out this year, with a newly elected homeowners’ association board.
The families began a parade through the neighborhood, with kids on bikes and parents walking behind, and were joined by a red fire truck driven by members of the Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department and a few police officers who came through the neighborhood.
Richard Goddard, president of the board, has lived in College Station for about three and a half years with his family. Goddard said the new community is quiet, friendly and family-oriented, made up mostly of young families with children attending neighboring Barstow Elementary School and parents primarily working either in Washington, D.C., or at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. With 125 homes currently standing, Goddard said the neighborhood is growing every day.
“We’re doing everything we can to get the neighborhood together and get people out and meeting each other,” Goddard said.
Katie Davis, vice president of the College Station HOA, has lived in the neighborhood for two years with her family.
She said because NNO is more of an event to focus on safety, and College Station has not had a lot of safety issues so far, “we just want to come out and meet the neighbors and get to know each other.”
Ron and Tanja Jones moved to the neighborhood a year ago with their four sons from Japan. Because Ron is in the U.S. Air Force, the family has moved a few times but says they love being in Calvert County and College Station for many reasons, including the public school system, the space and yard each homeowner has, the safety of the neighborhood and the quiet atmosphere outside of D.C. Tanja also enjoys living on the East Coast because traveling to her family in Germany is more convenient.
Ron said even though the family is not originally from here, they feel like they fit right in.
“A month after we moved in, they had a huge block party for the whole neighborhood,” Jones said. “That set the tone for the neighborhood for us. … I can only imagine the other events they’re going to have.”
With the neighborhood only being four years old, Goddard said he is looking forward to having more events with the newly elected HOA board.
“When you do events like this, it’s good because it brings everyone together from the different parts of the neighborhood,” Goddard said.
Goddard said a Halloween parade and neighborhood watch program are on the docket to be created.
In the Chesapeake Ranch Estates, a National Night Out event has been held for years in conjunction with the CRE Neighborhood Watch. Mary Woodward has been chair of the neighborhood watch program for the second year and said Tuesday’s event was better attended than the one last year. Only about 150 people came throughout the night in 2013, but within the first 90 minutes of the night this year, at least 200 showed up, she said.
Woodward has lived in the Ranch Estates for 26 years and joined the neighborhood watch program about 10 years ago.
“I wanted to know exactly how I could keep our neighborhoods safe,” Woodward said. Not only did she hope National Night Out would educate residents about the local law enforcement, but she said she also hoped the event would encourage more people to be involved in community efforts.
Several initiatives had booths at the CRE Clubhouse that night, including the Calvert Alliance Against Substance Abuse Inc. — the hub for Calvert’s annual National Night Out planning — and the CRE strategic planning committee, which has begun taking steps to incorporate CRE into a municipality.
David Hanson, a member of the Solomons Volunteer Rescue Squad and Fire Department, was stationed by a fire truck to answer questions and said some children say they want to be a firefighter or police office after their experiences at National Night Out.
“The kids are very curious,” Hanson said. “The more stuff they see, the better.”
Three-year-old Emma Starr already is fascinated with police officers. When she sees a police car, she’ll excitedly point it out. So, Tuesday was the perfect opportunity for Emma to interact with those she admired from afar.
“She’s got a thing about the cops,” said Emma’s grandmother, Debbie Starr. “I think it’s the lights.”
On Tuesday night, she got a sheet of “Mr. Yuck” stickers inside a mobile command unit. The green stickers are typically used to indicate to children that a household chemical is unsafe, and Emma began to stick every one of hers across her chest.
Even in the presence of a shiny red fire truck, a police car and more, the bounce house at the CRE event attracted the groups of children.
“We’ve been in the bounce house,” said Rowan Stoker, 8. “That’s the best part.”
Prince Frederick Village, Prince Frederick seniors and Calvertowne Town Homes celebrated a joint National Night Out event with a barbecue and raffle.
Regina Scott of Prince Frederick and her family have been part of NNO since 2009. She said she was happy to see her grandkids out of the house, playing with toys and meeting the community.
“The kids get to meet the firemen, policemen and important people in the community,” Jacob Martian of Prince Frederick said.
The event, which took place on Fairground Road with approximately 30 participants, had plenty of food and raffled home and garden pieces for the adults along with toy raffle prizes for the children, including plastic firefighter hats. There was fun for everyone from ages 2 to 72.
Laura Camilletti, representative of the Calvert County Division of Emergency Management, said she was happy to have the opportunity to “spread the word [of safety] and show your face in the community.”
Animal Control Officer Tom Guy has been a part of NNO for 11 years and looks forward to it every year.
“[The event] gets people to meet their neighbors. That’s probably the most important thing of all,” he said. It’s important for the children to know and understand what each officer, firefighter and politician does, Guy said.
In northern Calvert, the Patuxent Palisades and Shores of Calvert also teamed up to host a joint celebration at the end of Lyons Creek Road in Dunkirk. More than 30 residents, police officers and local politicians made their way to the welcoming neighborhood pond and were greeted by friendly neighbors and bratwursts. The children were kept entertained by a volleyball net and giveaway footballs and Frisbees, while the adults found solace in the good company.
Karen DePaulo, the chief organizer of the event and Palisades resident, said this is the eighth year the adjacent neighborhoods hosted National Night Out.
“It’s all about people coming together and watching out for your neighbors,” said DePaulo.
Residents of the Patuxent Palisades are inaugurating a neighborhood watch to the community of more than 50 houses to prevent any car thefts and crime. The committee will be responsible for reminding residents to lock their car doors and make sure the neighborhood is safe, DePaulo said.
“This event is a great way to get people together and meet about the new neighborhood watch,” said Palisade resident and neighborhood watch volunteer Eddie Logan.
In North Beach, the eighth annual National Night Out coincided with the local volunteer fire department’s yearly carnival, making it the ideal opportunity for North Beach residents to mingle with one another as well as law enforcement officials and firefighters, said Jane Hagen, chair of the North Beach Public Safety Committee and key organizer of the event. Informational tables, food trucks and a DJ booth playing lively pop music crowded near the boardwalk next to the Chesapeake Bay.
“I want people to understand that there’s a great relationship between the police and the fire department and citizens,” Hagen said. “That they need to not be afraid of them, that they’re friends and that they try to help everybody.”
While Hagen believes most of the illegal activity in North Beach would be considered “nuisance crimes” committed by people who do not live in the town, she recognized that drug use is an issue about which residents must be aware and vigilant.
CAASA board of directors member Debbi Mister of Huntingtown agrees drug use must be addressed — that of prescription pills and heroin in particular.
Before her adult daughter died of a prescription pill overdose three years ago, Mister said she thought it would never happen to her child. So, on Tuesday evening, she manned the CAASA table with the goals of educating parents and kids “to prevent another mother from feeling the way I do every day when I wake up.”
The ache of her daughter’s death has served as the impetus for her to distribute and encourage others to start conversations about proper disposal of pain pills and the implications drug use can have on person’s life, as well as those of their loved ones.
“When I have my camera on, I show [people] pictures of my daughter, and I tell them about how wonderful she was, and she had a master’s degree ... and she had a really great job, and she was the love of my life,” she said. “And they don’t want to ruin their lives by doing drugs.”
Nicole Coates of Chesapeake Beach, the mother of two boys, ages 2 and 4, said National Night Out is an opportunity for kids to connect with law enforcement officials, giving them the chance to ask questions they may not be comfortable asking their parents about drugs.
Having previously lived in Baltimore, she said in some areas, parents tell their kids not to talk to law enforcement, but this event helps kids feel comfortable around them.
“It kind of puts the prejudices aside, really,” Coates said.
Other Calvert communities that participated in NNO included Breezy Point, Carroll Western United Methodist Church, Kenwood Beach, Long Beach/Calvert Beach, Symphony Woods, Victoria Estates, Western Shores and Yardley Hills.