Police, Local Communities Come Together for “National Night Out”

| August 3, 2022

VENANGO CO., Pa. (EYT) – Six local communities hosted block parties on Tuesday in recognition of National Night Out.

(Pictured above: Trooper Michell McGee-Morrison (right) talks with a youngster during the block party at Grace United Methodist Church in Oil City.)

(Photos captured by Jacob Deemer/EYT.)

National Night Out is a community-police awareness-raising event held on the first Tuesday of August.

Venango County events were held in Oil City, Franklin, and Clintonville Borough.

The first event kicked off on Tuesday afternoon around 3:00 p.m. as Kay Woods hosted a block party along Wyllis Street in Oil City.

Woods, a 48-year resident of Wyllis Street, took advantage of the opportunity to bring together the close-knit community on the south side of Oil City.

(Pictured above: The Wyllis Street band performs at the Wyllis Street Block Party in Oil City.)

Four local bands performed along Wyllis Street on Tuesday, while PA Representative R. Lee James, Oil City Mayor Bill Moon, and others gathered for food, music, and family fun outside Woods’ home.

“This brings people together in a fun, friendly environment with some people who normally might not get together,” Woods told exploreVenango.com.

Among the performers were Randy Moorehead, Logan McMahon, Re-Issue, and the Wyllis Street Band, which is led by Woods’ husband, Stephen.

(Pictured above: Lottie Byham (left), age four, and her sister Leia Byham, age one, enjoy some watermelon at the Wyllis Street Block Party in Oil City.)

Across town, at Grace United Methodist Church, community members were gathering alongside area first responders, including PSP Franklin, Community Ambulance Service, Oil City Fire Department, the Venango County Sheriff’s Office, and the DCNR Bureau of Forestry.

The event, hosted by Hospitality & Outreach Chairperson Eva Palmer, was an opportunity for the community of Grace United Methodist Church which used to host similar events before the pandemic.

“We used to do a carnival like this over the years, but the pandemic hit, so we stopped,” Palmer said. “I thought this (community gathering) would be a great way to get started again with this type of thing.”

(Pictured above: Area first responders outside Grace United Methodist Church in Oil City.)

The festivities included various games and activities for the children, as well as free food, while the first responders opened up their respective vehicles for all to explore.

“You don’t want to meet people and encounter them in an emergency situation only,” said PSP Trooper Michelle McGee-Morrison, whose cruiser was very popular among the children in the church’s parking lot.

“When you can establish friendships, relationships, and just a rapport with people in the community, when it’s a nice and friendly setting, that can go a long way in a time of an emergency.”

“We’re grateful for establishing positive relationships with our neighbors because, essentially, we live and work here too, so we want to be able to have an open communication with the public.”

(Pictured above: Getting a tour of Trooper Michell McGee-Morrison’s cruiser during the block party at Grace United Methodist Church in Oil City.)

The third and final event in Oil City was hosted by the St. Elizabeth Center and Director Jessica Struthers, who said she jumped at the opportunity to have a block party.

“When we got the opportunity to do a community event, we went for it,” she said. “Everyone has been very happy and having fun.”

The St. Elizabeth Center, which started as an outreach of St. Joseph’s Church, now serves as a food pantry and a thrift store, as well as just a haven for many community members on the east side of the city. The opportunity brought community members together for food and music while the Reno Volunteer Fire Department, among other first responders, set up a slip-and-slide for the children to enjoy.

(Pictured above: Reno Volunteer Fire Department’s slip-and-slide was a huge hit during the block party at the St. Elizabeth Center in Oil City.)

“Specifically in this neighborhood, and probably in a lot of neighborhoods, (the community’s) contact with these first responders aren’t always in the most pleasant or best circumstances, so this is not only a good chance for us as a community, but (the first responders) to have a positive interaction,” Struthers added.

Also joining Reno Volunteer Fire Department was PSP Franklin, the American Red Cross, Early Head Start, and Autism Stands.

Meanwhile, at the Franklin Heights Playground, loads of fun and food were entertaining the youth in the park tucked away on the hill.

(Pictured above: Healthcare worker and balloon artist David Grams Sr. (left) kept the kids entertained while teaching them life lessons during the NNO celebration at Franklin Heights Playground.)

Face painters, balloon artists, and area businesses were joined by PSP Franklin, Franklin Fire Department, Community Ambulance Service, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the DCNR Bureau of Forestry, and the Pennsylvania Elks State Association. County Commissioner Albert “Chip” Abramovic manned the Blackstone to serve free hot dogs, as well as other food.

(Pictured above: County Commissioner Albert “Chip” Abramovic (right) serving up hot dogs during the NNO celebration at Franklin Heights Playground.)

Near downtown Franklin, crowds drew to Christ United Methodist Church along Liberty Street.

Outreach Director Anne Bakker explained that the church provides free meals for the community twice a month, so they were used to hosting these types of gatherings.

(Pictured above: The NNO celebration at Christ United Methodist Church.)

“We do a lot of community outreach all the time,” Bakker noted. “We do free meals twice a month and serve 700 people a month, so we’re used to a big volume, but we wanted to include as many community neighbors in this as we could.”

Franklin Firefighter Nate Danzer was quite aware of how important these types of events are to connect with the community while giving them a positive opportunity to see the company up close and personal.

“A lot of people, they see the fire truck, and it’s big and loud, and they get scared especially with the kids,” Danzer said. “It’s good that they can get up close and personal with us before something emergency-type thing happens.”

(Pictured above: Franklin Firefighter Nate Danzer (right) guides children through the company’s truck during the NNO celebration at Christ United Methodist Church.)

Alongside Franklin Fire Department was Community Ambulance Service, PennDOT, and Venango Transit (CATA), along with the Franklin Public Library, ABC Life Center and Slautterback Snow Cones.

“This really helps to bring awareness and just sorta calm the waters between neighbors who maybe haven’t had great experiences,” Bakker related. “Not just with first responders, but with churches and the library even. Sometimes people have bad experiences, but the community is really excited and just enjoying the opportunity to get together. People, I think, since the pandemic are just looking for things to do together.”

Also hosting a National Night Out celebration was Megan Weber of Clintonville Borough, who brought together the community along Park Street, behind the fire hall.

The block party included area first responders while offering free food, games, activities, and more.

The “National Night Out” campaign promotes police-community partnerships and community camaraderie to help make our communities safer, more caring places to live.

During this community-building campaign, neighborhoods across the nation host block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts, and various other events, with safety demonstrations, seminars, youth events, visits from emergency personnel, exhibits, and more.

The day’s events were made possible through mini-grants from the United Way of Venango County.


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