In the community

Ontario celebrates its first annual National Night Out on Tuesday

ONTARIO –– Ontario Neighborhood Watch is organizing its first annual National Night Out on Tuesday, Aug. 8, at Treasure Valley Community College. The event starts at 4 p.m.

National Night Out is a community-building initiative across the United States where families are encouraged to engage with their law enforcement officials and neighbors to create a safer community.

“We actually want to bring the first responders together with the citizens to build relationships,” said Ontario City Councilor Penny Bakefelt, who organized Ontario’s event with the Police Chief Michael Iwai. “It’s about prevention of crime and drug violence in our community and neighborhood unity.”

She considers the event an offshoot of the Neighborhood Watch program, which is “really vital for helping to reduce crime and neighborhoods and getting people to know each other.”

The evening will include booths set up by more than 22 organizations such as the Ontario Police Department, Ontario Fire and Rescue, Oregon National Guard, Treasure Valley Paramedics, Giggles and Grace Learning Center and Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Treasure Valley.

There will be several activities for kids including family-friendly games, Zorba balls and dunk tanks where children can dunk Iwai and Malheur County Sheriff Travis Johnson. The organizers will also provide free hotdogs, chips and cookies, as well as bottles of water. Attendees are also invited to stay for a screening of “Ice Age,” which starts around 9 p.m.

Bakefelt was encouraged to bring the National Night Out to Ontario after attending a similar event last year in Fruitland. When she and Iwai decided to bring it to Ontario, the community came together to make it happen.

The chief “is very passionate about building relationships in the community and I really want to support his vision,” she said. “I’m also overwhelmed by the amount of support we’ve received from the community. And so, I do hope the community comes out and enjoys this.”

Bakefelt hopes this event encourages citizens to have better relationships with their first responders.

“It really helps promote neighborhood unity and they learn something along the way about safety and awareness by getting out and having fun together,” she said.

Poster for National Night Out
Ontario Police Chief Michael Iwai poses with Penelope Clements of Ontario. Photo courtesy of Charlotte New.

CORRECTION: Ontario’s National Night Out event is Tuesday, Aug. 8. A previous version reported the wrong day of the week. The Enterprise apologizes for the error.

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