Cops, kids and the community-at-large got to know one another in a relaxed atmosphere Tuesday when the Hinesville Police Department hosted its annual National Night Out.
Approximately 1,500 people and 36 vendors attended. There were games, bounce houses, music and food. Vendors included the Liberty County Emergency Management Agency, HPD, United Way, Target, Atlantic Area CASA, and Keep Liberty Beautiful, among others.
National Night Out is an annual community building campaign by local police departments that fosters police-community partnerships to increase neighborhood safety, according to the National Night Out website. The festival is held the first Tuesday in August every year.
Vendors at the festival distributed school supplies to kids and important information to the parents. HPD gave out 40 backpacks, 100 boxes of Crayola crayons and colored pencils, 25 pencil boxes, 500 HPD pencils, 100 HPD refrigerator magnets and about 100 gun locks with safety pamphlets to educate parents, according to Police Chief Bill Kirkendall.
There are 33,000 citizens in the city, and this festival gives the police the chance to meet and connect with everyone, crime prevention officer Cpl. Kevin Remillard said. HPD doesn’t just stand for Hinesville Police Department, it stands for “helping people daily,” Remillard said.
“It’s taking an effort to reach out to the citizens and let them know that we’re here,” he said.
Larry Logan, deputy director for the Liberty County Emergency Management Agency, handed out goodies at the LCEMA booth, but also talked to kids about the importance of hurricane safety. He hopes that parents will learn from them.
“Children are the greatest influence on parents,” Logan said. “If we can plant the seed in the children’s mind about hurricane safety, hopefully they’ll go and tell their parents how important it is.”
Logan attends National Night Out in Hinesville every year and plans to continue until he can’t anymore, he said.
“I’m so excited,” Logan continued. “Children tug at my heartstrings, and if my health holds up, I’ll always be here.”
Cole Seal, a United Way representative, helped pass out school supplies. She said they tried to pick the items that are most needed, like earbuds, pencils, glue sticks, and paper. United Way participates every year at National Night Out, and at the annual back-to-school rally held in Riceboro, she said.
“We’re here to give things out,” Seal said. “Education is a focus of United Way, so anything we can do to help kids, we do.”
Atlantic Area Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), also participated in the festival, hoping to recruit volunteers for their program.
“We’re here because we advocate for children, and we’re recruiting adults to become advocates,” Petula Gomillion, executive director said. Atlantic Area CASA participates in other local events, but this was the organization’s first year at the festival, she said.
“We’re excited to be here,” Gomillion said. “It’s the first time we’ve been at National Night Out.”
When asked what the police department wanted people to take away from the event, Kirkendall said it’s a good time for everybody to come out and get to know each other.
“We want to meet the kids, let them know we are approachable, and let the adults know we are approachable as well,” Kirkendall said. “In past years, we’ve been able to do that with a great deal of success, and we hope to continue that on in the future.”