By GARY POPP
Jeffersonville residents have long relied on their neighbors for a cup of sugar, or perhaps a few eggs, but community leaders have bigger things in mind: crime prevention and spurring a stronger sense of unity.
The National Night Out celebration, which will take place in Jeffersonville on Tuesday, is the fruit of those labors to unify neighborhoods. This year’s event will include participation from 21 neighborhoods, some of which will be hosting community gatherings or cookouts.
Local businesses also are getting behind the effort. Last week, natural gas provider Vectren Corp. presented the Cherry Hill Neighborhood Association with $2,500.
Bob Rogge, Vectren Corp. division manager, said his company wanted to make a donation after he was contacted by Jeffersonville Councilwoman Lisa Gill seeking support.
“Vectren is very interested in community development, community projects. This is a really natural fit,” Rogge said. “We serve the vast majority of the community with natural gas services, and we just believe there are things we should be involved in, things we should further in terms of development of the community, sustainability in the community, all those kinds of things.”
While Jeffersonville has been involved in National Night Out the past two years, it is the first time Vectren has helped fund the event.
“We are a part of the community. We need to be involved in the community at a greater level,” Rogge said. “Returning some foundation dollars back to the community seems like what we should be doing.”
Joshua Rodriquez, chairman of the Jeffersonville Neighborhood Leadership Alliance, which is organizing the event, said he and others are excited to continue the success the city has had in previous years.
Since its involvement, the alliance has been awarded with Rookie of the Year and a participation award from National Night Out for cities with a population between 15,000 and 40,000 people.
“We are shooting to win another award and just kind of keep that going in a forward motion and keep climbing that ladder,” Rodriquez said. “We want to get more neighborhoods and different neighborhoods involved each year. It is something we are going to plan on doing every year.”
Rodriquez said residents don’t have to attend an event to participate. He said just by turning on their porch lights the evening of the event, residents can show signal their support of stronger neighborhoods.
Organizers and participants of the event envision preventing criminal activity in their communities through building stronger neighborhood networks.
“I don’t think you are going to completely deter the criminals,” Rodriquez said. “This is a way to make your neighborhood a little bit more aware, take some more ownership, establish a block watch, a phone tree, or whatever it is, a Facebook page, to get the word out that there is something going on in your neighborhood.”
Rodriquez said stronger communities can result in more than just crime prevention, however.
“This event that we have, we use it for a couple of different things. It is community awareness, to get your neighborhood organized into a neighborhood association, or a neighborhood watch or a homeowners’ association,” he said.
The alliance is partnering with the Jeffersonville Police Department to host the event, which provides people the opportunity to not only get to know their neighbors better, but also the police officers who patrol their streets.
“They are very cooperative. They are a big, intricate part of this,” Rodriquez said of the officers. “They come out to the neighborhoods. It is good to have the police officers come out the way they do and support us. We have had nothing but positive reinforcement from them.”
Like many things, Rodriquez said residents get from their community only as much as they put into it.
“As much as we can help the community with the police officers, and the street department and the fire department,” he said, “I think we just get that back tenfold.”
• The Georgetown Optimist Club and Georgetown Police Department are co-hosting the 30th annual National Night Out celebration from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6, at the Georgetown Optimist Club.
There will be games, digital fingerprinting of kids, free food, Eddie Eagle Gun Safety for pre K-third grade, music, neighborhood watch information and more. Also joining the celebration will be the Georgetown Fire Department and Yellow Ambulance.
For more information, contact Bev Oehrle 812-951-3142 or Chief Dennis Kunkel 812--951-2508.