Kids, cops, parents, community and business leaders came together Friday night for the annual Community Night Out at Liberty Independent Troop Park on Oglethorpe Highway in Hinesville. The Hinesville Police Department and Target presented the crime-prevention and safety-themed event. More than 30 vendors offered children and parents information about educational and community resources.
“Community Night Out is held to help generate support for and participation in local anti-crime programs, strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships, and send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back,” Hinesville public-relations manager Krystal Hart said in a news release.
“This is a night for our community to come together and highlight our police-community partnerships,” said Hinesville Crime Prevention Officer James Williams, the event coordinator. “It is also a time to empower our citizens to become involved in creating a safe, unified community for us all to enjoy.”
Sgt. John Snipe with Georgia State Patrol Post 11 in Hinesville parked his patrol vehicle next to a GSP helicopter on park grounds so families could get a close-up look at both.
“We’re here for them (the children),” Snipe said as he opened his patrol-car door for a small boy to slide into the driver’s seat. The child, clearly impressed with the dashboard, asked Snipe about the patrol car’s lights and sirens.
“A lot of kids are scared to get in the car,” Snipe said. He said many children are reluctant to get near GSP officers, often in situations when patrolmen and women are assisting families whose vehicles have broken down on the roadway.
Snipe said events like Community Night Out help allay kids’ fears of law-enforcement officers.
Georgia Power energy service representative Willie Cato’s booth on electrical safety also was a crowd-pleaser. Using a scientific, classroom-approved model, Cato offered a demonstration of what can happen when people get too close to power lines.
“I use this as a learning aid in the elementary and middle schools,” Cato said. He said he shows children what to look for, such as downed lines after a storm, and what not to touch. Cato said teachers often ask him to speak to their classes when they’re teaching a lesson on electricity. The Georgia Power employee handed out “Power Town” coloring books featuring Louie the Lightening Bug, along with crayons, pencils and rubber bracelets.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources officers, Corp. Jay Morgan and Ranger Jason Miller, laid out animal skins, skulls and turtle shells so children and their parents could get a hands-on lesson about local wildlife and the coast’s endangered species, such as sea turtles. The DNR officers also offered residents information on boating safety, fishing licenses and state parks.
Several organizations sent representatives to educate Night Out attendees on hurricane preparedness.
Mark Moses-Hunt, emergency services assistant program manager for the American Red Cross, demonstrated how easy it is to put together hurricane-preparedness kits. Moses-Hunt advised residents to wear a whistle around their necks so they can blow it “at every heartbeat” to alert search and rescue should they ever find themselves trapped in a damaged structure.
Liberty County EMA staffers and Community Emergency Response Team volunteers handed out similar educational materials and answered parents’ and children’s questions about storm safety.
Other community-resource groups — such as Helen’s Haven, a nonprofit children’s advocacy center, and United Military Care — promoted their programs at the event. Helen’s Haven works to prevent child abuse and offers services to help heal young victims of abuse. United Military Care provides military families assistance in the form of food and other necessities, and educational classes.
Restoration Church and the United Way of the Coastal Empire manned a joint table. Liberty United Way Director Jennifer Darsey and Restoration Church Pastor Alan Darsey are married and sometimes team up for community events, Jennifer Darsey said. The church handed out school supplies while United Way volunteers — in an effort to promote childhood literacy — gave away children’s books, including Goosebumps and Hannah Montana novels.