Neighborhoods, church hold National Night Out block parties
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Neighbors gathered together, forming new and continuing old friendships, at four different block parties held around Copperas Cove as part of the annual National Night Out.
Typically held on the first Tuesday in October in Texas, National Night Out is a nationwide campaign started 38 years ago in 1984 and has grown to include 16,000 communities, including 400 in Texas.
The purpose of National Night Out is to “promote police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie,” according to the NNO website.
In Copperas Cove, the residents of Kim Ave and Jace Court have gathered and feasted together at their block party since 2004.
Organizers Eleanor Matos and Birgit Wills said that it’s important to get to know one’s neighbor.
They keep hosting their block party because they like their neighborhood and want other neighbors to like it too.
“We feel great because we get to know, like this lady- they just moved here so now she gets to see all the neighbors, and I think that’s great,” Matos said, introducing Melissa Brink and her husband, Dennis.
“In this neighborhood, we always help each other out,” Will added. “When there’s somebody new, we try to help them out, even though we may be busy, we’re like, ‘Hi! We’re here!”
“Everybody has waved, introduced themselves the whole time we’ve been here,” Brink said. “It’s been amazing.”
Matos added that the neighbors also help keep watch over each other’s property and keep an eye out for possible crime.
At the Robertson Avenue Baptist Church, kids played on the bounce house outside and families enjoyed the various yard games, like horseshoes. Inside the church, a feast of hot dogs and hamburgers and all the sides and fixings awaited, plus a table of desserts.
The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled National Night Out last year, so when this year’s was announced as a go, the church signed up immediately, according to Cecil Burrows, the coordinator for the Robertson Avenue Baptist Church’s National Night Out block party.
“This is our neighborhood,” Burrows said. “This is where we live. This church is active in this community. We’re here Sunday, we’re here Monday; we’re here Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Sometimes we take Friday and Saturday off, but we’re here almost every day. There’s something going on in this church all the time, so we open ourselves up to everybody out there, so they can see us. They can come visit us and get a good meal, get something to eat, see what we’re about.”
Burrows said that there were quite a few new faces at the block party this year, which he was happy to see.
The church holds the block party every year as a way to reach out to the community and share their Christian message.
“This is our mission in life as Christians is to reach out to the community and touch everybody and say, ‘Hey, we’re here. We’re here to introduce you to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We want you to be part of that. We want you to have everything that we have.’ It’s not hard. Walk in the door- we’re here.”
Eloina “Bo” Roldan, who delivers the Meals on Wheels meals to senior citizens in Copperas Cove, enjoyed a plate of food at the church’s party, with Nancy Kumpf, who found out about the party through the newspaper at the Senior Center.
Roldan said she came by after the city council meeting finished.
“Instead of going home and getting on the phone on Facebook, let me just come on by,” Roldan said. “I mean it’s important that we do get out in the community. I think it’s a good thing to do because it gives us the opportunity to know people, like Kevin Miller said [at the council meeting], sometimes we don’t even know our next door neighbor’s last name because we don’t get out.”
Roldan admitted that COVID has played a part in keeping people home but said that people should still go out into their community.
“Know who lives on Robertson Avenue, know who lives on Virginia Avenue, know who lives even if it’s just a street over, know who that person is,” Roldan said.
Kumpf said she was fairly new to the Copperas Cove area, and with the pandemic, she had become somewhat isolated, living with just her daughter.
“The reason I came is I think it’s important that the people get to know each other but the reason I came is because I’m home all day,” Kumpf said. “My daughter works, and I’m home, and this was a chance for me to get out and talk with other adults. With my daughter, it’s school, school, more school because she’s a teacher.”
Over on Republic Circle, Leah Elmore hosted her own get together, as she has each year since 2018. When she moved to the neighborhood in 2017, Elmore was the third house in the development. Since then, she has made it her mission to welcome and get to know each new family that moves into the neighborhood.
“New houses go up and different people move in, so really just to get to know the neighbors,” Elmore said.
During Winter Storm Uri earlier this year, Elmore said that these friendships became especially beneficial when some neighbors lost power and needed a hot shower or a place to get warm.
A large part of National Night Out involves building relationships between police departments and the community as well.
“It is very important for neighbors to know each other and to really know their neighbors last name,” said Lt. Kevin Miller, spokesperson for the Copperas Cove Police Department. “We have gotten away from that, and National Night Out is a building block to help us know our neighbors, and it’s an integral part to the Police Department’s success to get out, meet the members of the community and hear the issues that they’re having. Building relationships, strong relationships are an important foundation to a successful community and to us as a successful Police Department. We truly value and respect all members of our community, and we treasure every opportunity we have to have a positive interaction with them.”
Members of the Copperas Cove Police Department and the Law Enforcement Explorers Program brought McGruff the Crime Dog and visited each block party to mingle and interact.
Elmore said that building relationships with the local police is especially important. Elmore is black, as are her children and her grandchildren, and one of her grandsons is deaf.
Elmore said that in the event later on in his life that her grandson is thought to match the description of a suspect and crosses paths with law enforcement, now the officers will know that he is deaf and will know why he isn’t responding to them if they speak or yell at him and can try to communicate another way.
“Things that hopefully never happen, but again you have that relationship with the police,” Elmore said. “Also, you don’t want your children to be afraid of them. I still believe there’s more good than bad.”
During their visit at Elmore’s block party, the Explorers explained what they do and answered any questions the children had for them before playing some basketball.
Elmore said she liked that the CCPD had this program, because in the event that the Explorers choose to go into law enforcement and join the police department, they will already have a relationship with the community they swear to protect and serve.