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National Night Out celebration

August 05, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown City cops converged near Jonathan Street at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

So did more than 300 residents.

This gathering was all about celebrating the positives of the neighborhood and the city as police and residents celebrated the 9th annual National Night Out.

The Bethel Corporation, proprietors of the Bethel Gardens housing development, and the Hagerstown Police Department teamed to throw what once again turned out to be a festive summer block party in one of the city's "HotSpots" neighborhoods.

"For this neighborhood in particular, it's a chance for people to come out and just get together," Hagerstown Lt. Margaret Kline said. "People should get to know who lives beside them and on their block."

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Kline spearheaded the first local effort in 1994. One year later, Bethel Gardens Manager Cathy S. Dotson became a driving force in organizing and energizing the annual night out, Kline said.

Dotson said she begins work on the mid-summer event each May.

"To get a bunch of people in the community to get together, you really need something big," Dotson said. "When I see this - all these people coming out and getting along, it makes it all worth it."

The event, created by the nonprofit organization National Association of Town Watch, started in other parts of the country in 1984. In many areas, the event gives police and members of the community a chance to meet in a positive setting that includes music, food and children's games.

This year's event in Hagerstown was no exception.

The Shout music group from Gateway Ministries in Williamsport opened the event with a set of celebratory, Christian-based songs. There were attractions like the inflated Moonwalk Balloon and the Hagerstown Fire Department "Safety House."

"This helps kids learn about things other than the bad news they always see in the newspapers," North Potomac Street resident Larry Winston said. "This really focuses on the good."

Bethel Gardens resident Stacey Powell, 17, said she looks forward to attending the event each year with her mother, niece and nephews.

"It's just a fun tradition," Powell said. "It's cool to see everybody out."

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