SIDNEY — Downtown Sidney, for the first time, joined the more than 16,000 communities nationwide Tuesday to celebrate National Night Out.
St. Paul’s United Church of Christ participated for the third year. But the idea of bringing neighbors together with law enforcement to promote police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie isn’t new. National Night Out has been an annual activity in other places since 1981.
“(The National Association of Town Watch) sent me something,” said Downtown Sidney Director Amy Breinich, about why her organization decided to participate. She then contacted Mike McRill, community resource officer for the Sidney Police, and together they determined to try something this year.
“With the recent negativity toward police, it was a good time to do this,” Breinich said. “We have a great community and a great populaton of people who want it to be a great place. We don’t want the crime.”
McRill said the police department’s community resource office was reactivated this year.
“In a lot of communities, (National Night Out) is a really big deal,” he said. “I know Amy’s hoping that happens here. People call (the police) when they have a problem. I want them to call us when they don’t have a problem. I know that isn’t traditional.”
A dozen or more organizations had set up activities for children on the courtsquare and were distributing information to adults from 6 to 9 p.m.
The committee of 40 volunteers who coordinated the games, food, music and crafts from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the parking lot of St. Paul’s Church had hand-delivered fliers promoting the event to residents who lived within a two-block area in all directions from the church on Ohio Avenue.
“We do it just to bring the neighbors out and get the kids involved and make it known that this is a safe place,” said committee co-chairwoman Gina Skorupski, of Anna. Lisa Seeger was the other co-chairwoman.
“And just watching the kids have fun — the smiles on their faces,” Skorupski said. All activities in both locations, were free.
Kristy and Adam Batchelder and their daughter, Neleha, 11, of Sidney, were on the courtsquare early.
“We saw it advertised at the library and it sounded pretty good,” Adam said.
“It’s a good outing for the kids,” Kristy added.
Wilbur Hook, of Sidney, was making the rounds with his grandson, Gabriel Barhorst, 6.
“He’s done everything there is to do down here,” Hook said. And that was a lot.
Safe Haven and Kroger offered face painting. Goodwill Easter Seals and the Shelby County Counseling Center had coloring books and activity sheets, a basketball game, foam noodles, Legos, corn hole, and bowling for kids to play.
They could get candy from New Choices; sheriff’s badge stickers from the Shelby County Sheriff DARE office and Daren, the Shelby County Sheriff’s DARE lion; tote bags with coloring pages, stickers and coupons from Family Video; safety pages from Damsels in Defense; freezy pops from the Connection Point Church of God; candy from Downtown Sidney; and sno-cones, tote bags and candy from Kroger, who also offered face painting.
The Shelby County Historical Society presented a sand-art craft. At a table set up by the American Red Cross North Miami Valley of Ohio, kids could learn how to stop, drop and roll and how to get low under smoke.
“The goal is to have 25 percent fewer deaths by fire nationwide, so we want to get kids prepared so they know what to do,” said Rhonda Wade, the Red Cross volunteer coordinator for Shelby County.
Staff from the Amos Memorial Public Library helped kids craft little policemen using crayons, cutouts and toilet-paper rolls. Just behind them, the Sidney Co-operative Learning Center was making squad cars from paper plates.
The Kids Learning Place distributed medicine droppers, Band-Aids, and ice packs. Children crowded around the table of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shelby and Darke County to string beads into helping hands necklaces. Parents appreciated the Sidney Police booth, where they could have their children fingerprinted or have their DNA collected.
At St. Paul’s Church, children were eagerly exploring a Sidney Fire Department fire truck and earning tickets for prizes by playing miniature golf, bull’s eye toss, and other games. There were face painting, mural painting, a slide and bounce house, too. Sidewalk chalk was available for budding artists to create masterpieces on the blacktop. Sidney Police officers were on hand to visit and answer questions.
Adults enjoyed bingo, a disc jockey’s music, hot dogs, popcorn and sno-cones.
“(The neighborhood) looks forward to it every year,” Skorupski said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.