Neighborhoods weather National Night Out

Cove Leader-Press

Neighbors shared food and conversation at the National Night Out block parties held around Copperas Cove Tuesday evening. 
Tuesday marked 33 years since the first ever National Night Out event took place and 20 years since Copperas Cove started participating. National Night Out was started as a crime prevention program to emphasize building a relationship between the police and communities and to help residents feel safer in their neighborhoods. 
Residents of the Thousand Oaks neighborhood, which encompasses Kim Avenue, Craddock Avenue, part of Williams Avenue, Aimee Avenue, Lanae Lane and Jace Court, enjoyed themselves despite the rain at their block party held in the cul-de-sac of Jace Court. This year marked 11 years of having the block parties on National Night Out, according to organizers Birgit Wills and Eleanor Matos. 
This was the first year that it rained, which Wills said might have played a part in keeping the numbers of who showed up down. In previous years, their block party would draw crowds of 40 to 50 people, Wills said. 
Wills and her husband moved to the neighborhood in 1995, she said. She said she continues to help organize this annual event for her neighborhood so that it stays the safe neighborhood it’s always been. 
“We have a nice community and we like to keep it up,” Wills said. “Sometimes the old neighbors move away and we get new ones, so we try to bring the new ones in to our traditions and keep the neighborhood safe. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
On one of the tables under a white canopy tent was a bottle for collecting funds to replace the Neighborhood Watch sign that someone had previously knocked down. Matos said that the police department told them that if the residents bought the sign, the city would send someone out to put it up. 
On another table, there was fried speckled trout caught in the Gulf of Mexico, bratwurst, buns, pretzels and desserts as well as condiments. Once the rain let up, the music started playing and the residents moved their chairs out from under the canopy tents. 
Marianna McDonnell, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1985, said that she has attended the National Night Out block party pretty regularly since it started. 
“This is the smallest crowd we’ve ever had but as you can tell, nothing keeps us from eating well,” McDonnell said. 
McDonnell said that it doesn’t matter whether someone rents or owns a house in the neighborhood, they are welcomed just the same. She added that each year, more and more homes get added to the list of those holding block parties. This year, the residents knew about the block party through fliers and through Nextdoor, an app and website that connects neighbors with each other.
As Copperas Cove has gotten bigger and changes have been made since McDonnell first moved here, McDonnell said that they’ve weathered it all very well and have no worries. 
 “We’ve got good people around us and the reasons we chose Copperas Cove hold,” McDonnell said. 
Brookview Village Apartments, an apartment complex for senior citizens, held their own block party in their front lobby for residents. 
This party gave the residents a sense of community and let them know that they are a part of the community, property manager Lisa Leonard said. 
“It’s a senior property so it’s just a way for them to get out, meet the neighbors, and spend time with each other, socialize, eat,” Leonard said. “It’s important to know that the fire crew, the police, they’re all here for us.”
This was the fourth year that Brookview participated and Leonard said that as each passes, there’s more participation and more camaraderie between the neighbors, bringing a sense of community instead of just an apartment complex. Residents enjoyed pizza and Bush’s Chicken and had the chance to win gift cards to Walmart, Subway or Dairy Queen. 
The Robertson Avenue Baptist Church closed their party down just after 8 p.m. but called it a success. This year marked their third year participating and according to Cecil Burrows, the sound engineer at the church, each year there’s a little bit more people. 
The fire department came and brought their trucks. The police came and brought the donuts, Burrows said.  There was music, a bounce house for kids and enough hot dogs and hamburgers to feed anyone who came, he said. 
Burrows explained that the whole purpose of National Night Out is to get neighbors to know one another, and that Robertson Avenue Baptist Church is a neighbor to so many including an apartment complex, houses and businesses. 
Burrows said that this opportunity allows them to share their beliefs, especially since they are the only church that participates in the National Night Out block parties. 
 “We are part of the community. We are made up of members of the community,” Burrows said. “We live here, we work here, we play here, but we also worship here.”

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