Northside neighborhood offers opportunities on National Night Out

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

National Night Out was a time to help people learn about opportunities now and in days to come on Kalamazoo’s Northside.
The Northside Association for Community Development hosted a classic National Night Out gathering on Tuesday evening. There was music, food, ice cream, and giveaways, including drawings for six bicycles for children.
But the event, which has taken place since 1984 on the first Tuesday of August in communities across the country, also called attention to health and safety resources available to community residents and it promoted the need to work with others and law enforcement to help make the neighborhood a safer and more prosperous place.
That included the opportunity to meet Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Vernon Coakley, Kalamazoo City Manager Jim Ritsema, leaders of the Mothers of Hope Program, and various other community leaders. It also included the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at a special vaccine clinic.
“What we hope to accomplish with National Night Out is bringing people out together again for resources,” said Mattie Jordan-Woods, executive director of NACD. “But more importantly, to do a (vocational-technical training) kick-off because Urban Alliance is now doing classes in the old Urban Garden Building.”
Children were able to use the small playground and get free ice during the National Night Out on Kalamazoo’s North Side Neighborhood.That building is located adjacent to the small park area just behind NACD’s offices at 612 N. Park St. and it is where Tuesday’s event took place.
“It’s part of our NACD campus where we’re bringing neighborhood-based training,” Jordan-Woods said. “If you don’t have transportation to get back and forth to Kalamazoo Valley Community College or to trade sites, that’s what we’re doing -- bringing the training for good-paying jobs into the neighborhood.”
As part of the advocacy organization’s Neighborhood-Based Workforce Career Development Program, the training classes are open to residents of Kalamazoo’s East Side, Edison, and North Side neighborhoods as well as general low-income people, Jordan-Woods said.
“Urban Alliance is now going to be doing the CNC machinery classes and start recruiting for people to come into the Certified Nursing Assistant classes and (pre-apprentice) construction classes that we’ll be doing,” Jordan-Woods said. “The training will be starting in the fall.”
CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control. A CNC operator sets up and operates computer-controlled machinery as part of a manufacturing process. Kate Miller, director of career and continuing education at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, said KVCC was on hand Tuesday to support the community but also to promote the CNC academy that is scheduled for Sept. 7 to 17.
Maddie Jordan-Woods, center in black, helps with drawings for children’s toys during National Night Out.“It’s totally free,” she said. “It’s two weeks of free training for Computer Numerical Control and at the end, we work with employers to do job placement as well.”
Those who successfully complete the class will be entry-level CNC operators. Participants must be 18 or older but do not need a high school diploma. They must have a state or county and a Social Security identification.
“Upon admission to the program, you do have to pass a drug screen because the employers do drug screens so we want to make sure everybody’s well set up to actually be employed,” Miller said.
A sign-up was also available for those interested in buying homes that NACD plans to build on the North Side.
This young man was among six youngsters to win bicycles during random prize drawings at Tuesday’s National Night Out.Saying National Night Out “is a great opportunity for our community to get out, and meet and greet one another in order to collaborate and see who your neighbors are.” KDPS Chief Coakley said he hopes to visit several National Night Out events in various other Kalamazoo neighborhoods, including Milwood and East Side.
“Sometimes we meet family (members) that we didn’t even know were with us,” he said. “But this is an opportunity for organizations and our city to meet the community. This is another opportunity for us to collaborate and more importantly to build the relationships that are important for everyone in order to grow our community.”
Kate Miller, of Kalamazoo Valley Community College, promoted free Computer Numerical Control classes that will be held in September at NACD's 612 N. Park St. location. 
Among the organizations providing information at Tuesday’s event were Michigan Works, The Kalamazoo Promise, Mercantile Bank, Consumers Energy, Bronson’s SNAP Program, Community Home Works, the City of Kalamazoo, KVCC, and Urban Alliance.

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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.