JEFFERSONVILLE — Residents throughout Jeffersonville spent an evening of fun with neighbors in their respective communities during National Night Out festivities Tuesday.
Several neighborhoods held their own celebrations for the nationwide event, which has aimed to promote community camaraderie and build relationships with law enforcement officials since its inception more than 30 years ago.
"National Night Out is a great evening where neighbors and police officers can all get together," said Mary Pardon, president of the Port Fulton Neighborhood Association. "The theory is to take a bite out of crime."
Port Fulton was established as a neighborhood just seven years ago in 2012, Pardon said. In the time since, she has enjoyed seeing the community develop through programs like National Night Out.
"We are just growing every year," Pardon said. "This is a really fun event, and it seems like it gets bigger. We actually last year won an award from the city police officers for neighborhood partnerships, so we're really proud of that."
Members of multiple law enforcement agencies — including the Jeffersonville Police Department, the Jeffersonville Fire Department and the Clark County Sheriff's Office — took time out to bounce around the city to interact with community members.
In Claysburg, neighborhood association president Carol Moon facilitated many of these interactions throughout the evening. After introducing young members of the community to JPD officers, she stressed the importance of building positive relationships with law enforcement to keep the community safe.
On top of meeting law enforcement officials, Moon detailed a number of other ways the event benefits the community.
"National Night Out is a great time for all the community to come out and get to know their neighbors, and for the children to come out and have fun and get a free meal," Moon said. "Back-to-school giveaway is what we focus on as our theme for National Night Out. Our whole theme is bringing the community together with law and fire. Meeting their candidates and knowing who represents them is a number one plus as well."
LaVerne Vaughn, treasurer of the Claysburg Neighborhood Association, said donations from members of the community as well as money from the association's treasury helps fund the giveaway. Most years, she said, the event gets school supplies in the hands of 50 to 60 children.
'We come out to the park and give out backpacks and school supplies for the children," Vaughn said. "We just love to participate, because it's something we can do in this community for kids that don't have things. They can go to school and feel good just like any other children whose parents are able to afford these types of things. We just love it, and it seems like people in the community appreciate it."
Serving up grilled foods to those in attendance were members of the Four Horsemen Motorcycle Club, which is going on its 24th year in Jeffersonville.
"We always go out into the community," member Big G said. "We actually just did the back-to-school drive with the church. We always try to give back whenever we can."
It wasn't just law enforcement organizations who made it out to the event. Other groups and companies from the community also had a presence to strengthen the bonds with their neighbors.
Among those present was Jeremy Kramer, vice president of the Louisville & Indiana Railroad. On Tuesday, he was promoting Operation Lifesaver, which is a national nonprofit rail safety organization.
"Our goal is to reduce preventable train incidents, which is all of them, to zero," Kramer said. "We come out and speak to the public to be aware that walking on the tracks is criminal trespass, but it's also dangerous. Children may not realize that, and parents used to do it."
It was the first year L & I attended National Night Out in Claysburg. The reason for the outreach effort, Kramer said, was to better inform the surrounding community about railroad safety.
"We're also here as a neighbor," Kramer said. "We operate in the Claysburg community. Some know we're there, some don't. Railroads nationwide and the Louisville & Indiana Railroad realize that times are changing, and we need to be a better, visible neighbor to our community. We'll go anywhere and speak to anyone."
Despite it being orientation for some of the older students in area schools, Moon said she was happy to see so many young people show up.
"Look around, just look at these children and all these babies out playing and participating," Moon said. "It's a good thing for them to be here. Even though school orientation was tonight, we still had a fantastic turnout."
Giara Taylor, 6, spent most of the evening playing with her 4-year-old brother, Galvin.
"The most fun thing we've done is play on the bouncy castle and get candy," Taylor said. "The next thing I want is a sno-cone. Last year we came, and I had just as much fun this year."
Many misconceptions exist about Claysburg, Moon said. Those sometimes negative beliefs, however, don't hold true when you see the community bonding at events like Tuesday's, she added.
"A lot of folks in Jeffersonville are not sure of Claysburg Neighborhood Association," Moon said. "It's always been stigmatized as a 'hood.' We are a perfect, fantastic neighborhood. We love one another, and we embrace the love of all cultures and all kinds. We are so glad that we live in this fantastic community that is a part of the City of Jeffersonville."