By Evan Brandt, The Mercury
POTTSTOWN >> Perhaps Mayor Sharon Thomas said it best: “National Night Out is very important so neighbors get to know each other instead of just passing each other getting out of their cars.”
There were few cars but lots of getting to know each other Tuesday night as Pottstown celebrated National Night Out with two very successful celebrations, one at the park and Chestnut and Washington streets and the other at Trinity Reformed UCC Church at King and Hanover streets.
At these two locations, you might have seen anything from a custom-built hearse pulled by a motorcycle to two“Trojan Men-in training” learning the ropes of mascot-ship.
“People don’t go out and do things with each other as much anymore,” said William Pifer-Foote, interim pastor of Trinity UCC. “So something like this is great, it says we’re all here.”
Many community organizations set up tables at both locations.
At Trinity, visitors could register to vote, with a slice of chocolate zucchini bread as a reward; enjoy a free cup full of Rita’s water ice, a hot pretzel or a hot dog; get information about a broad variety of things from stopping gun violence to a Latin festival being planned for Sept. 4, in Riverfront Park or a free music program that starts on Tuesday, Sept. 6, at Christ Episcopal Church on High Street.
At Chestnut Street, Judy Memberg, executive director of Genesis Housing, and Erika Hornburg-Cooper, head of ArtFusion 19464 were giving Christopher Willman the details of their new joint project — the renovation of the former Fecera’s furniture warehouse on Beech Street into artist apartments and the new home for the art center.
Memberg, whose non-profit organization has helped sponsor the last five National Night Out events in the park, said neighborhood revitalization requires more than just fixing up buildings.
“We can rebuild every house in a block, but if we don’t rebuild relationships among neighbors, than we haven’t revitalized the neighborhood,” she said.
Other information tables included the YWCA, PEAK, Pottstown Regional Public Library, BB&T Bank, Women’s Center of Montgomery County and the Pottstown Police Department.
Pottstown Police Detective Ed Kropp Jr., who heads up the department’s Community Response Unit, couldn’t agree more.
“We see people we may have seen before under less fortunate circumstances,” said Kropp. Those people get to know the police are about more than arresting people, he said.
“We hope it makes them more comfortable calling us,” he said.
Events like this also help prosecutors, said Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, who stopped by the park in between visits to similar events in Royersford and Plymouth Meeting.
Steele was in Pottstown recently to announce the establishment of a new Community Prosecution Unit to help smooth and improve cooperation among his office and the police in the county’s western-most borough.
Some of those prosecutors were meeting neighbors at National Night Out because “the law enforcement community cannot do this alone. We want to be partners with the community, build relationships and get to know each other,” said Steele.
Kropp said the prosecutors and police are working out the kinks of working together more closely and Steele said the prosecutors’ familiarity with Pottstown and the circumstances of arrests will help make the community safer.
“Knowing the scene, the suspects on the front-end makes a huge difference,” said Steele, who noted his office handles 10,000 cases a year.
Shari Butler, who was sure to mention that she works for “Beauford Funeral Services down on High Street as a Mercury videographer approached, did not have quite that many burgers on her grill, but it seemed that way.
Neighbors also munch on nachos with cheese, hot dogs and the ubiquitous water ice.
“I think this is great,” said longtime resident Chris Golden, “the community and the police get to know each other better, everyone is talking.”