Hundreds of people attended Martinsville Police Department-coordinated National Night Out events on Tuesday at First Baptist Church of East Martinsville and Refuge Temple Holiness Church.
Activities included singing groups, tables of free food, display of fire and EMS vehicles, inflatables for children, and an opportunity for police and the public to communicate.
Avery Preston, pastor of Greater Love Ministries, was one of the church leaders involved in helping put on the event at First Baptist Church of East Martinsville.
“I think it’s great anytime the people can come together and fellowship in this community,” he said. “I think is a positive thing, especially with all the violence going on in our nation. It is good to be able to come together with people and share some love and food and fun and just enjoy the evening.
“This is a strong message that we can abide together regardless of ethnic backgrounds, religious backgrounds, whatever, We should all have a common bond, and I think that’s demonstrated here tonight that we are all human, that we all want the same thing out of life . We just want to enjoy life and have peace with one another. It’s sending a strong message that regardless of race, color or creed we come together to do some positive things.”
National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that is held the first Tuesday in August in 48 of 50 states to that promote police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie. Its goals are to create safer and more caring places to live.
G. Zeke Zanato, a Neighborhood Watch captain, also was helping with the event at First Baptist, of which he said, “This is for keeping our neighborhoods safe.”
Not far away, Martinsville Vice Mayor Chad Martin said, “In the climate we’re dealing with now in the United States, with all the shootings and everything going on, we don’t need to have just one night; this needs to be every weekend, every weekday. It brings people together.”
He looked around at the crowd at First Baptist Church of East Martinsville.
“You see officers serving. You see public officials serving. Look at the different age demographics. … You’ve got kids. You’ve got elderly. This is what community really is about. Dr. [Martin Luther] King said, ‘We reach the highest heights of technology’ in reference to going to space, ‘but we still don’t know how to talk to one another.’ Nights like this would have even made Dr. King proud.”
Martinsville Police Chief Eddie Cassady was standing not far away.
“It’s a great event for our community to come together and just have some good fellowship and let folks know, ‘Hey, in our community, we don’t stand for crime in our areas.’ ... We can’t thank enough our faith-based community for helping us.”
He also mentioned some businesses that helped with the event.
After being served a plate of food at First Baptist Church of East Martinsville, Regina Carter said of the event is “a wonderful thing to do and come out. ... It helps us to get to know the police and to know each other.”
At the National Night Event at Refuge Temple Holiness Church, 7-year-old Nathan Vaughn of Bassett was asked what he liked most.
The bouncy house and the hamburgers, he said.
His mom, Tiffany Vaughn, said the event is “very, very helpful. ... For the community to come together for one night and enjoy each other. ... National Night Out helps. It keeps you busy. I think National Night Out is a great thing for anybody.”
Officials of Refuge Temple Holiness Church and McCabe Memorial Baptist Church praised the churches involved, the public for coming out, the police department and other city agencies and the overall effort to help keep the community safe.
Several churches joined together to help put on the two National Night Out events. They included Wilson Street Pentecostal Holiness Church, Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church and St. Paul High Street Baptist Church.
Paul Collins is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. Contact him at 276-638-8801, ext. 236.