National Night Out 2022 is set to be a great time for Kalamazoo neighbors to check in

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Kalamazoo series.

The Northside Association for Community Development will use Tuesday as an opportunity to tell people about its ongoing career training programs. 
 
Kalamazoo’s Eastside Neighborhood Association will use the day to tell people about the progress being made to improve and beautify the neighborhood, including a new welcome-to-the-Eastside mural that is being created. 
 
Resident associations in the Vine and Edison neighborhoods will also bring people together on Aug. 2, by hosting free, casual, family-friendly activities.
 
The occasion is National Night Out, an annual event that has taken place in neighborhoods in Kalamazoo and across the country for the last 38 years to keep neighbors in touch with one another and strengthen their relationship with police, service organizations, civic leaders, area businesses and the municipalities that serve them.
 
Mattie Jordan-Woods, executive director of the Northside Association for Community Development, at center in black, is shown presenting prizes to young people at the neighborhood’s 2021 National Night Out event.The idea is to promote neighborhood spirit and deter crime. And the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety says this is a really good time for that.
 
“Now, more than ever, National Night Out is a significant event,” says David Boysen, deputy chief of KDPS. “We really need more sense of community.”
 
The COVID-19 pandemic halted a lot of community-building activities and many people became isolated “and kind of lost that sense of community,” he says. So this year, public safety is trying to get that back by participating in and hosting more community events.
 
“And National Night Out is another important event where we get the community and law enforcement together to get to know each other on a personal level and build those relationships which is so important,” Boysen says. “We have to have the community and police working together to address concerns of safety in our community. The police can’t do it alone. The community can’t do it alone. We have to do it together.”
 
Kate Miller, of Kalamazoo Valley Community College, is shown promoting Computer Numerical Control classes during the Northside Neighborhood’s 2021 National Night Out event.Residents of the Vine Neighborhood Association will gather from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Davis Street Park, at 901 Davis St. For residents of the Edison Neighborhood, there will be free, family-friendly activities for kids of all ages from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. adjacent to the neighborhood association offices at 816 Washington Ave. They will have the opportunity to visit with neighbors, public safety officers, directors of their neighborhood associations, and others who provide services and plan activities in the neighborhood. Snacks and water are to be provided.
 
For the Northside Association for Community Development, the theme of National Night Out will be “It’s Career Time.”  Working with The Kalamazoo Promise, the Northside event is scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday on the corner of North and Park streets.
 
“We’re going to do all the traditional stuff where people have fun, food, prizes, bouncing houses (for kids), everything we’ve always done to bring families together in a safe place,” says Mattie Jordan-Woods, executive director of NACD. “Only this year there’s going to be an addition, and that is the (career) trainers are going to be there. And some of the employers of the trainers are going to be there.”
 
Working with The Kalamazoo Promise, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and others, NACD provides training classes to help people start careers as a Certified Nursing Assistant, as well as in the construction trades, medical coding/billing, and CNC (computer numerical control) manufacturing. 
 
The Kalamazoo County Health Department will be on hand to do COVID vaccinations. The Kalamazoo Department of Parks and Recreation will also be on hand with youth activities. Food will be provided by Park Street Market, which has made the contribution for several years. Service vendors and other community partners such as Hope Thru Navigation will also have tables at the event.
 
Information on how Eastside residents can help local muralist Patrick Hershberger complete this “Greetings from the Eastside” mural will  be provided at the Kalamazoo Eastside Neighborhood Association’s National Night Out event on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 20Members of a summer youth group, the Peace House Summer Camp, are helping local illustrator and muralist Patrick Hershberger work on a new mural that he and a partner Chad Burke have etched on the side of a former warehouse building they own at 1226 E. Michigan Ave.
 
“They are allowing people to draw on their board with their supervision,” says Patricia Taylor, executive director of the Kalamazoo Eastside Neighborhood Association. “They already have the outline – ‘Greetings from the Eastside’ with faces and stuff. … They will work with some of them to do the mural.”
 
On subsequent weekends Hershberger and Burke will work with other community residents who want to help. Hershberger, who is also known as Bonus Saves, may be known for various murals he has done around town, including the “Welcome to Vine” and “Welcome to Washington Square.”
 
Taylor says the building being used for the Eastside mural has great visibility for motorists who are leaving downtown Kalamazoo and headed to the Eastside, Comstock, and beyond.
 
“What we’re going to do at National Night Out is tell people about it and have them sign up their families for a specific date to meet with Patrick and his partner to finish the mural,” Taylor says.
 
The Edison Neighborhood invites residents to participate in National Night Out
The Eastside organization’s National Night Out event is set for 5 to 7 p.m. at Rockwell Park, located at 1106 Trimble Ave. The event will feature snacks and family-friendly activities. Information about various services and programs, including the Open Roads Bike Program, is expected. Coaches of the Eastside Wolverines youth football team (Rocket Football League) will host a kickball game. And various vendors will be on hand with merchandise for sale.
 
“National Night Out is just a great event,” Boysen says. “It gives us the opportunity to get to know each other, have a meal together and we really look forward to that every year.” Public Safety officers hope events like National Night Out will help them build relationships that inspire more people to report crimes.
 
Authorities in Kalamazoo and elsewhere have been struggling to get a handle on gun violence, in particular. Although the number of homicides committed in the city of Kalamazoo is trending lower than last year (four thus far this year, versus seven last year), Boysen says, “We are seeing an increase in gun crimes involving juveniles. More juveniles are carrying guns.”
 
Through July 18, there were 45 incidents in which people under age 18 were arrested with a gun, he says. “All of last year we had 56,” he says.
 
“We have to get to know each other and build those relationships so that the community is willing to call us and share information,” Boysen says.
 
Jordan-Woods says the events are fun and have a much bigger potential effect. “National Night Out is where you come and you eat, you play games.”
 
“It gives the community a chance to come and intermingle with each other,” she says. “You bring people from all neighborhoods together. People from all walks of life. And it reminds us again that we all can be together.”

 

Read more articles by Al Jones.

Al Jones is a freelance writer who has worked for many years as a reporter, editor, and columnist. He is the Project Editor for On the Ground Kalamazoo.