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Ogden Avenue Block Watch

Neighborhoods make party of Night Out
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Neighborhoods make party of Night Out
National anti-crime effort adds block-party flavor
Wednesday,  August 6, 2008 3:02 AM

People across the country came outside to greet their neighbors last night as they celebrated National Night Out. Mother-and-son teams headed up two of the parties in Columbus.

Although their parties were on opposite sides of the city and the activities differed, too, the families' motives were the same: to encourage positive changes in their neighborhoods.

On the West Side, Columbus Police Sgt. Ron Kemmerling's cruiser drove down S. Ogden Avenue, greeted by kids eager to learn about his job.

Kemmerling passed out stickers, pencils, coloring books and bike locks.

He took a break from his regular duties to spend time in the neighborhood talking with children and meeting their parents and other residents as part of National Night Out, the annual event designed to raise crime awareness and build relationships among neighbors.

"It does make it easier for kids to come up and talk to us," he said. "I think the vast majority of people appreciate our presence."

Justin Boggs, 20, and his mother, Lisa, have organized an event in their Ogden Avenue neighborhood for each of the past four years.

Though National Night Out started in the1980s simply encouraging people to meet and greet their neighbors, the Boggses took that idea to a different level. This year, COSI brought in hands-on demonstrations and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium sent animal exhibits to entertain kids.

"I think something like this -- having free food, activities -- gets everyone out," Justin Boggs said.

About 60 or 70 people gathered in the West Side neighborhood.

As kids crawled through the back of Kemmerling's cruiser and a police van, Justin looked on and smiled. He said the event also allows the community to get to know police in an encouraging environment.

"It's a positive way for kids to meet police," he said. "They're not meeting them in the back of the cop car, and I think that's a better message."

On the East Side, Yuqusa Bowers, 20, stood behind a grill flipping chicken and talking to his neighbors behind Kent Elementary School.

Nearby, neighbors gathered for badminton, face-painting and Frisbee-tossing.

Bowers said this event is important because his mother, Gina Hawthorne-Hill, turned her life around and wanted to spread her hopeful message to others.

"My mom, back in the day, she wasn't doing all that well," he said. "She decided she wanted to make a change in the neighborhood as well as a change in herself. She's trying to come back for the neighborhood and do something other people don't think about doing."



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