East Portland neighborhoods throw successful ‘National Night Out’ events

Come on along and ride with us, as we take a whirlwind tour of “National Night Out Against Crime” events throughout outer East Portland in August. This story is packed with more photos than ever … maybe you’re in one of them!

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs brings bike helmets and safety information to Parklane Park in the Centennial Neighborhood – and attends many other National Night Out events every year.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
One of the most important affairs for neighborhoods across outer East Portland is their National Night Out Against Crime event. Many of these took place this year on the “official” event of August 4 – but some came before, and some after.

In this photo-packed story, we invite you to come along, and see the many ways your neighbors were celebrating National Night Out.

August 1

Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association
Earl Boyles Park

Mark White, President of Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association, talks with neighbors visiting their booth.

This year, Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association (PGNA) pulled out all the stops, and created an afternoon-long event at Earl Boyles Park that lasted well into the evening – topped off by Movie in the Park showing of the animated film “Shrek”.

“The basic tenet of Neighborhood Night Out,” said PGNA chair Mark White, “is that when neighbors come together, they get to know each other. Data shows than when neighbors know each other, crime goes down.”

White added, “When we have gatherings like this, it also sends a message that people are paying close attention to what’s going on in the neighborhood and in the community. This adds a sense of pride, and ownership, in where you live. That, in turn, helps people want to take care of where they live, and to look out for their neighbors.”

“The Working Stiffs” fill Earl Boyles Park with lively rock and roll music.

Volunteers from American Legion Portland Post #1 (“The Service Post”) serves up a complete hot dog dinner for visitors to their National Night Out event.

Face painting is one of the activities we see at many National Night Out events – here, artist Shelby Johnson decorates Elizabeth’s face.

Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association’s community safety chair, Tom Barnes, and Crime Prevention Coordinator Rosanne Lee, help folks learn the steps they can take to make their street safer.

August 4 Events

Hazelwood’s Gateway Park Apartment Community

The Manager of Gateway Park, Kathy Flesey, with volunteers Robert Minden, Assistant Manager Joyce Smith, and Carl Hunter put on a “pool party” – complete with barbecue for their tenants and friends.

“We’re having a great turnout this year,” said Kathy Flesey, the property manager of Gateway Park, just off NE 100th Avenue. “We’ve already served a lot of burgers and hot dogs – and the great weather is bringing out many residents.”

More than 150 folks learned about community safety and had a great time, Flesey added.

Volunteer Andrea Long is in charge of giving away great prizes, donated by several local businesses. The grand prize is a brand-new bicycle!

Lents Neighborhood Association
Lents Park

John Welch wields the scoop at the Lents Neighborhood Association’s annual Ice Cream Social.

Organizer of the Lents Neighborhood event, Judy Welch, said they’ve been participating in National Night Out for 14 years.

“It’s a chance for community members to get together, be able to meet each other, and deal with crime problems affecting all of us,” Welch commented. “You know, sometimes there’s a problem on one street that’s also on another. By working together, we can more effectively take action to solve problems and reduce crime.”

Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz enjoys the Lents Ice Cream Social with organizer Judy Welch.

“This is my first year as a City Commissioner to experience National Night Out,” smiled Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz – who attended several East Portland events this year. “I’m revisiting the neighborhoods I visited as a candidate.”

Many years ago, Fritz told us, some people around the city scoffed at the idea of National Night Out parties. “Now that it’s become established – with more than 160 parties in Portland this year – it shows that people really understand that the event is truly about community, knowing your neighbors, helping your neighbors. It’s a fantastic event; I hope more and more people will continue the tradition in years to come.”

ROSE Community Development’s Amie Diffenauer is one of the volunteers who helped present and promote the Lents Ice Cream Social.

Centennial Community Association
Parklane Park

Centennial Community Association Vice Chair Ron Clemenson and Chair Tom Lewis flank Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs at the prize table.

It was a bring-your-own-picnic event for Centennial Community Association neighbors this year. “The association supplies the water and soft drinks,” said their chair, Tom Lewis.

One of the best things about National Night Out, Lewis continued, “Is that it brings citizens together with their public safety providers. They get to meet police officers and firefighters, face-to-face. It’s important that kids grow up knowing that cops are there to help you, and that firefighters can save you.”

Iris Hilburger, who is with the Josiah Hill III Clinic, provides information about getting free blood testing for lead exposure among young kids and the elderly.

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Officer Young gives “honorary cop” stickers to kids at Parklane Park.

At this event, Commander Michael Crebs agreed that it’s important for citizens to meet one another. “People getting to know one another in a neighborhood is the basis of ‘community policing’. When you see something out of the ordinary happening to a neighbor or their property, you’re more likely to call the police.

“And it’s good to for people and police to meet in an easy-going situation like this. Many times, officers see citizens under difficult or unpleasant conditions. Here, we can develop relationships that help us work together, and make a better place to live.”

Glenfair Neighborhood Association
Glenfair Park

Sue Flores, Olive Mangas-Larson, Mike Vander veen, and Richard Larson put together this year’s big Glenfair Neighborhood Association celebration.

“Tonight, we are introducing ourselves to people who may not be aware that there is a neighborhood association,” said Glenfair Neighborhood Association board member Olive Mangas-Larson. “We have a lot of multi-family dwellings in our area around the MAX line; we work to keep it in good condition and help deal with livability issues.”

In keeping with the “Movie in the Park” theme, and the screening of “Charlotte’s Web” later in the evening, the Oregon Zoo brought out pigs and ducks for kids to meet at a petting zoo.

The Southern Zone Manager for Portland Parks & Recreation, Jeff Milkes, makes sure the popcorn and the “Big Screen on the Green” are ready for the evening’s movie showing.

One step they’re taking, with the help of AmeriCorps volunteer Mike Vander veen, is setting up an Asset-Based Community Building program to identify strengths in their community and build on them. “Another is that we’ll be starting with a youth workshop on September 15, at GlenFair Elementary School,” reported Mangas-Larson.

Samuel Turner pitches a beanbag – just one of the many games for kids provided at this event.

Mill Park Neighborhood Association
SE Yamhill Street Block Party

Mill Park National Night Out organizer Todd Baker says he enjoys helping turn neighbors into friends.

The tradition of holding a block party also continued this year for the Mill Park Neighborhood Association.

“The best thing for me is seeing our neighbors again,” said organizer Todd Baker. “Sometimes we lose track of them during the year. But during this evening, we get to rebuild those connections. It really opens better lines of communication with everybody.”

Working the grill again this year is Karl Moody, cooking up “premium hot dogs” enjoyed by all at the party. “You’ve really got to try one,” Moody offered. We accepted. It was delicious, Karl! Thanks!

Mill Park neighbors June Hassebrok and Pauline Stevens take time to speak with East Precinct Officer Joseph Young at their event.

Parkrose Heights Association of Neighbors
Knott Park

This year, Knott Park saw as many as 500 guests as volunteers from the Parkrose Heights’ neighborhood association put on a successful National Night Park celebration.

This year, members of the Parkrose Heights Association of Neighbors worked diligently throughout the year – including applying for and receiving a Small Neighborhood Grant from their neighborhood coalition to throw a really big party for their neighbors in outer Northeast Portland.

“Anyone want free drawing tickets?” invites Carol Williams, Chair, Parkrose Heights Association of Neighbors.

“We had a great committee who worked their tails off to put this event together,” commended their association’s Chair, Carol Williams. “It’s really gratifying to see the people really turn out. This builds a sense of community. It brings people together, so they get it chance to talk about different things that are going on where they live – and to be able to band together to do something about it.”

There was a long line of takers for Chacha the Clown’s twisted balloon creations.

Volunteers Steve Aubrey and Tom Bossert are two of the chefs who spent the afternoon and evening cooking up dinner for 500.

Insomniacs and the Eric Christopher Band – and children’s karaoke – all added an upbeat tone to the Parkrose Heights event.

Argay Neighborhood Association
Argay Park

Kyle Ziegler, principal broker at CastleGate Realty, Inc., and husband Jim swing out to the lively tunes played by The Kooltones.

Argay Neighborhood Association volunteers stepped up, and once again, put on a rockin’ party for their neighbors this year at Argay Park. Live music, an inexpensive Burgerville dinner plate, and lots of community and public safety exhibits provided much to see and do.

Argay’s association Chair, Valerie Curry, says this National Night Out event wouldn’t have taken place without the help of many volunteers.

“The best part for me is the interaction with the neighbors,” commented Valerie Curry, Chair of Argay Neighborhood Association. “I spend a lot of time, behind my desk and on the phone, dealing with neighborhood issues. It’s wonderful to get out here and be able to meet the neighbors; I really do like it. And, our committee really came through, don’t you think?”

Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz greets the crowd at Argay Park as the band takes a break.

Fischer Ferguson gets to see what it’s like, looking out of the hatch of the FBI armored vehicle on display.

Mandy Lewis and Stephanie Evans, volunteers from TARGET, serve up Burgerville hamburgers.

Hazelwood Neighborhood Association
At Portland Adventist Academy

Event organizer Liesl Vistaunet takes a moment with Tamberly Couch, Portland Adventist Academy’s Development Manager, to show future plans for the campus.

Again this year, Portland Adventist Academy hosted a National Night Out celebration for the Hazelwood Neighborhood.

Liesl Vistaunet, told us, “I really believe that when a community gets to know each other – by name, and on sight – they tend to look out for each other. If someone is new to the neighborhood, neighbors can reach out to neighbors.”

Students from the academy helped in many ways – scooping up shaved ice cones, serving fresh cut watermelon, twisting balloons, and entertaining visitors. And, again this year, Portland Fire & Rescue had their “Kids Safety Course” set up, and taught kids fire safety principles.

PAA student volunteers Maggie Bailey and Judith Mendoza provide cool watermelon slices on the hot August evening.

Jack Mahoney and the Plus Five Trio entertain visitors to the Mill Park celebration with classic show tunes.

Here’s something you don’t see every day – the school’s Cougar mascot (we’re told it’s student Bradley Clark) riding a unicycle while in full costume!

August 8

Parkrose Neighborhood Association
Senn’s Dairy Park

Entertainment at this National Night Out event was unexpected: Commodore Marva LaFaye with Pirates of Portlandia and Skull & Thistle, in full regalia. “We’ve come to pillage massive amounts of popcorn,” she says. “We’re not often invited to neighborhood events, as one could well imagine. So, it’s fun to come out and be part of our community.”

The Parkrose Neighborhood Association kept to its tradition to holding their National Night Out celebration on the Saturday following the official date, and it was again at Senn’s Dairy Park.

Neighborhood Chair Mary Walker says she’s happy their event is taking place at NE 112th Avenue and Prescott Street, “The sweetest spot in the neighborhood.”

Lots of activity was going on – a game of badminton, some face painting, and making prince and princess crowns – accompanied by African drummers and then a banjo duo. Cheeseburgers from Burgerville, plus popcorn and beverages, sated the appetites of visitors.

“This special event helps break barriers down, so people get to know each other,” said Parkrose Neighborhood Association Chair Mary Walker.

“Beyond helping strengthen the neighborhood,” Walker continued, “I’m so pleased it’s taking place here in Senn’s Dairy Park. “When this park was finally completed my eyes misted up and felt very emotional. I felt like it was a turning point for us, as we reclaim our neighborhood. We could have had a street party, but here – this seems like is a much more neighborly venue.”

Kaya Emrick helps by distributing Burgerville cheeseburgers.

A favorite at National Night Out events, such as the one in Parkrose, is a visit by Portland Fire & Rescue crew members.

One more to go

Although we’ve run out of space, there’s one more National Night Out event to go – an event combined with a Gateway Fun-O-Rama – that was held on August 15. Check back next week for that story!

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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