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Weather, fun, food draw crowd during Night Out
Interim Martinsville Police Chief Eddie Cassady hugs Lynette Perkins of Martinsville on Tuesday during National Night Out block party festivities at First Baptist Church of East Martinsville. Cassady and Perkins graduated from high school together. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Beautiful weather and the promise of good food and fellowship brought hundreds of people out Tuesday evening in Martinsville for the National Night Out crime and drug prevention event.
The event, which was celebrated with block parties at three area churches, is designed to strengthen relationships between neighborhoods and law enforcement, according to Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper.
“It’s a good, friendly crowd,” Draper said. “This is what it’s all about. Very casual, very laid-back. It gives an opportunity for people to meet all the police officers and meet public officials, and feel free to talk to us or call us with any kind of questions.”
One of the event’s main goals, according to former Martinsville police chief Mike Rogers, is to raise awareness of crime in neighborhoods so that citizens will help look out for each other. Rogers said police officer Coretha Gravely deserves much of the credit for that initiative locally.
“I can never thank Coretha Gravely enough,” Rogers said. “She’s worked so hard to build these partnerships with our citizens, and I think she’s gotten over 40 Neighborhood Watch groups together.”
“Police are limited in their manpower,” Rogers added. “They’re stretched out so thin. People know what’s normal and what’s not in their neighborhood, and if you get them to look out for each other and call in, that helps everybody out.”
The goals may be serious, but the block parties were festive, with inflatable slides and bounce houses, games of corn hole, raffles, gospel singers and plenty of home-cooked food.
A lot of work goes into the event, according to Dr. C. Lee Hagwood, senior pastor of Agape Bible Christian Fellowship where one of the parties was held.
“We have a tremendous team, the church along with the community captains,” Hagwood said. “You have to give a lot of praise to them, because they get the information out to people in the community. They plan everything ... and we do everything within our ability to help provide the resources for them. Hopefully each year we’ll just grow and grow, and get more people to come out and participate.”
Skeeter Joyce, coordinator of the block party at McCabe Memorial Baptist Church, said she was grateful for the cooperative weather and helpful volunteers.
“The weather’s been wonderful,” she said. “I didn’t have a plan B, because I was afraid that God would give me a reason to use it. ... We’ve been coordinating all week and bringing it together today with a lot of volunteers.”
Bell Moyer, who is a member of First Baptist Church of East Martinsville, said she has been attending her church’s National Night Out block party for about five years.
Moyer said that she likes “just seeing everybody out, and enjoying the fellowship of it all. Everybody comes from different churches, and you get to meet all these new people.”
Martinsville City Council member Danny Turner agreed.
“It’s a good way to get people together,” he said. “A lot of times, people don’t even meet their neighbors except at events like this. It sparks some real friendships.”
“Great weather, great food, great neighbors,” Hagwood said. “I think we should be very proud of our community.”